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January 28, 2009

CCA: Study reveals economic reality for Gulf grouper

CCA-funded study shows value of 100 percent recreational allocation.

In an important development in the debate over the proper management of gag and red grouper in the Gulf of Mexico, a newly released economic study of the fishery finds that a 100 percent allocation to the recreational sector would yield maximum economic value to society.

Gulf grouper has been a hotly debated issue in the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which is meeting this week in Mississippi to discuss grouper management among other issues. The study's economic findings should add a new twist to the management of this intensely debated fishery.

"Most in the recreational community would not be surprised by these results, but I think many federal managers have ignored this reality," said Frederic Miller, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association National Government Relations Committee. "This fishery would yield more jobs and economic output from a 100 percent recreational allocation."

The study was conducted by Brad Gentner, who ran the recreational economics data collection program for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for eight years before starting his own company, Gentner Consulting Group. As a NMFS Economist in the Division of Economics and Social Analysis, he specialized in survey design, recreational fisheries demand and welfare analysis, non-market valuation, and economic impact modeling for recreational fisheries.

Gentner's study used economics to analyze grouper allocations in the Gulf of Mexico. Among other findings, his analysis revealed that recreational gag grouper fishing generates $107 million in value added, $60.8 million in income and supports 1,513 jobs while red grouper fishing generates $35.2 million in value added, $20 million in income and supports 501 jobs. Commercial gag grouper fishing generates $16 million in valued added, $7.7 million in income and supports 322 jobs while red grouper fishing generate $49 million in valued added, $23.7 million in income and supports 988 jobs. The majority of the economic impacts in the commercial sector in both fisheries occur in the retail and restaurant sectors, and Gentner concludes that those sectors would experience very few losses with a 100 percent recreational allocation.

"This study cannot be ignored. More than ever allocation is a critical component of virtually every fishery management system," said Chester Brewer, vice chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee. "With this information in hand, it is outrageous that the Gulf Council should establish an Individual Fishing Quota system for Gulf grouper without first addressing the allocation issue."