The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted March 11 to “terminate all work relative to catch share development in Amendment 21,” the Comprehensive Catch Share Amendment. A motion made by Council member George Geiger of Florida to the Snapper Grouper Committee yesterday resulted in the vote to remove catch shares from Amendment 21. It was welcome news and a decision long overdue for recreational anglers who have fought the concept of catch shares as an inadequate solution to fishery management problems.
“There are so many other things for federal managers to be focusing on other than a controversial management scheme like catch shares,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee. “This action by the South Atlantic Council signals that NOAA should stop the rush to embrace catch shares and reconsider its priorities.”
Catch share programs establish a biology-based annual catch limit for a species and allocate a specific portion of that limit to different entities, such as commercial fishermen, cooperatives or communities. In fisheries where there is a large and growing recreational sector, catch shares maximize benefits to the commercial fishing industry while ignoring the participation and beneficial economic impacts of recreational sector.
“Proper management of the recreational sector should be a top priority for the Congress and for NOAA Fisheries – not catch shares,” said Brewer. “We need more frequent stock assessments, development of fishery independent data and improved recreational catch data for federal fisheries. We are very pleased that South Atlantic Council members decided to remove catch shares as a management option in this Amendment and we hope that other Councils will follow their lead.”
The catch share concept has not disappeared entirely from the South Atlantic Council’s menu of options, as work will continue on catch share development for the golden crab and wreckfish fisheries, both exclusively commercial.
“We still have a lot of work to do on catch shares, but this is a step in the right direction,” said Brewer.