"The largest public fishery giveaway in Florida's history" is how the CCA Florida describes the actions of the Federal Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
The recent approval of Amendment 29 to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan allows the implementation of an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program that grants exclusive right of access to more than 65 percent of all the Gulf red and gag grouper to a limited number of commercial interests.
"The magnitude of this giveaway is unprecedented," says Ted Forsgren, CCA Florida executive director.
In defense of the approval, NMFS states that the IFQ does not convey title, nor ownership of the resource, to the commercial interests. Nonetheless, the commercial fishers under the amendment will be allowed to take, sell, lease, broker and even bequeath these grouper quota shares. "For this privilege the commercial interests will pay absolutely nothing," says Forsgren.
The Gulf grouper IFQ is all about the allocation and access to public resources, not about conservation. Establishing IFQs will only benefit large operators in the commercial fishery. Growth of the recreational fishery will be restricted, and as more people try to fish for grouper - and the populations come under increased pressure - the bag limits and seasons will become even more restrictive until the recreational fishery is no longer viable.
"The ? damages that will be inflicted upon Florida's recreational fishery have been completely disregarded," says Jeff Allen, chairman of the CCA Florida Government Relations Committee.
CCA is evaluating legal and other options to address the adverse impacts of the grouper IFQ on recreational fisheries. Visit the Gulf of Mexico page in the CCA newsroom, www.joincca.org, for CCA's official comments submitted on Amendment 29 to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan.