The long awaited arrival of seatrout to reach its minimum management goal of 35% Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR), due in large measure to the support of the angling public and its voluntary adherence to size and bag limits, is to be celebrated. But it should not be taken as a green light to expand the fishery, additional take must be done with caution in mind. Increasing the commercial take of seatrout with large increases in the number of months of the commercial season, the use of beach and haul seines, the allowance of huge amounts of seatrout take as “by-catch”, and the rest of the amendments being proposed for the commercial fishermen are all simply bad ideas, not only from an economic/jobs perspective but also from a policy perspective. From an economic/jobs/recreational viewpoint, the better course in the long term would be to expand the allowable season for seatrout – and perhaps expand size and bag limits – for the angling public, rather than allowing increased significant take and sale by commercial fishermen.
CCA Florida has received an economic study that compares the value of the commercial seatrout fishery to the recreational seatrout fishery here in Florida. This study provides substantial evidence using MRFSS, NMFS, and FWC data that shows that CCA’s concerns over a directed commercial fishery on seatrout are valid. The value that the recreational directed fishery brings to Florida is just over $81 million compared to the value of the commercial fishery brings which is less than $300 thousand. The numbers of jobs and economic value associated with recreational seatrout fishing in Florida – from guides, to bait and tackle shops, to hotels, restaurants and gas stations – clearly indicate that promoting more recreational angling for seatrout, and not more commercial take of seatrout, is the wiser course.
Next week, on November 16th in Key Largo, FL the FWC Commissioners will have the opportunity to vote on several proposals that would expand the commercial seatrout fishery. These include, but are not limited to the possibility of adding beach and haul seine nets for a “by-catch” fishery and allowing year around sale of seatrout. CCA believes the FWC Commissioners should take the better course of action and do the right thing for the fish and the economy and keep the seatrout fishery as is. To view the full economic report, please see this document (.pdf) from the Gentner Consulting Group.