The MAFMC felt that paybacks might not be appropriate for recreational overages, particularly on healthy or rebuilt stocks, and that paybacks are more suitable to stocks undergoing rebuilding. Since recreational fishing is associated with an outlay of money, it is normal that effort will shift to stocks that will provide the greatest reward or simply those that are rebuilt. With this in mind, it is likely that recreational catches will exceed catch limits when those catch limits have been established based on incorrect estimates of future abundance. Because of the inherent variability of recreational fisheries, it is also impossible to estimate the correct overage that could or should be withheld as payback from an unknown future catch.
One Step Forward
The MAFMC had concerns about the impact of in-season closures as AMs for the recreational fishery. So it eliminated the regional administrator’s authority to put in-season closures in place. The concern was that these potential closures could have regionally disproportionate impacts to the recreational fishery as different areas start fishing at different times. Also, bookings for party/charter operations are made well in advance and do not allow the ability to change.
So, while many interested in fisheries management around the country have been wringing their hands over the perceived inability of the MSA to be flexible enough to deal with fluctuations in catch, particularly with rebuilt stocks targeted by sport fishermen, the MAFMC came up with a solution. At this writing, its alternatives still need to be approved by NOAA Fisheries, but since the MAFMC was smart enough not to completely reinvent the wheel, it’s likely the measures will be implemented. Our kudos go to the MAFMC and its staff. It saw a problem and then crafted a solution. It is likely that this will get other councils to re-examine their recreational measures and make them a little more flexible