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‘Catch Shares’ Articles

It’s Still About Recreation…Isn’t It?

Ted Venker
Conservation Director
Coastal Conservation Association

The catch share issue is generating a lot of attention, and it is certainly warranted. Any concept that proposes to privatize a public resource should get a strong reaction from the public and every attempt should be made to beat it back.

However, some of the rhetoric about catch shares is overheated, and it is threatening to blur some other important concepts, like the very real differences between recreational and commercial fishing. Take for example the recent press release headlined, “Catch Share Activists Meet Heavy Resistance.” That release uses words like, “turncoats,” “sellouts,” “treachery,” and “sharecropping” to blast proponents of catch shares. Very provocative stuff that would get anyone’s blood boiling. Light the torches and grab your pitchforks!

The release goes on to laud elected officials for defending the “fishing industry,” and laments that too many fishermen are struggling to provide for themselves and their communities.

“Honest fishermen work very hard to make a living in our states every day,” it quotes representatives who are pushing an amendment to block funding for catch shares as saying. “We write to express our concern that NOAA’s catch share policy will further endanger the economic vitality of the already struggling fishing industry…”

The release is about an amendment filed by Rep. Walter Jones, who has been an unabashed, unapologetic champion of the commercial fishing industry, to keep any of the millions of dollars earmarked in NOAA’s budget from being used on catch share programs in the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic and New England areas. It is an amendment that Coastal Conservation Association happens to support – there are far better things for NOAA to be spending scarce resources on than catch share programs. Things like more frequent stock assessments, developing fishery independent data and improved recreational catch data. CCA is currently engaged in a lawsuit against the federal government and Environmental Defense Fund over a catch share program. A victory there, and passage of Rep. Jones’s amendment, will go a long way to slowing down the rush to embrace catch shares as a one-size-fits-all solution to any fisheries problem.

It is important, though, for anglers to keep an eye on the ball in this debate. Beneath the incendiary language of that press release is a continuing, subtle and somewhat sinister slide into defending the commercial fishing industry, which caused most of the problems in our fisheries in the first place. Rep. Jones has filed a potentially useful piece of legislation to derail a management tool that was developed for commercial fisheries, and as a side benefit it would also ward off the negative impacts of catch shares to recreational ones. You may recall that North Carolina made headlines recently for allowing trawlers to continue industrial fishing operations in state waters despite outrageously wasteful striped bass kills that were videotaped by recreational anglers.

So what exactly is this “hard-working fishing industry” described in this release that some groups are fighting to protect? I don’t know too many in the recreational sector who fall into that category other than those in the charterboat industry, which depends on and caters to recreational anglers. The marinas, and the tackle and boat manufacturers could conceivably be the “fishing industry,” but I don’t get the feeling that is who this release was talking about. After all, the same folks who wrote this release also marched on Washington DC last year and, although there were well-intentioned recreational anglers in their midst, for the most part they were arm in arm with trawlers and netters and longliners from all over New England to demand their right-to-fish at all costs.

I know lots of anglers who work hard to support their fishing habit. They aren’t supporting their families with it. They’re passionate, sure, and they spend a fortune buying boats and tackle and fuel and bait and equipment. They want to go fish whenever they can, which is never often enough, and they hope the resources are healthy enough that they can bring a pile home for dinner.

But are they a “hard-working industry” bent on bringing enough fish back to port to sell and support their community? That doesn’t sound like recreation. It doesn’t sound like the for-hire industry either. That sounds a lot like commercial fishing, and as we have seen historically, and most recently in Maryland and North Carolina, industrial fishing and recreational fishing don’t have the same goals on most issues.

In the fight to rein in this Administration’s zeal for catch shares, it is good to find common ground with Rep. Jones and others where we can. But it is also good to not get so caught up in overheated rhetoric that the recreational sector sells its soul and erases the lines between recreational angling and industrial fishing.

To re-rig an old saying, the rear-end you kiss today just might be connected to the trawler who dumps thousands of pounds of dead striped bass over the side tomorrow.

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Caught up in Catch Shares

Much has been made about the catch share issue in recent months. Catch shares are a poorly understood issue that has been made more complicated by an absolute avalanche of mistruths, half-truths, and outright lies swirling about it in fishing chatrooms and blogs across the country.

Almost every facet of the past, present and future of catch shares has been grossly distorted.  A glance at the average chatroom would lead casual readers to believe that there is a vast, strange conspiracy linking all-powerful environmental groups with oil companies with “double-agents” posing as anglers to rid the world of fishermen. One recurring theme is that the goal is to empty the oceans of all people so the oil companies can pillage at will. Another, green theme says the goal is to empty the oceans of all people so that the fish and whales are left alone to prosper. There are long, fantastical charts linking this group to that group, to prove the conspiracy of anti-fishers exists. Everyone is on Pew’s payroll, or Environmental Defense’s or Exxon’s.

The only thing missing is a good 007 character to save the day.

None of it is true, but it makes good reading. And nothing spoils a good tale like a few cold facts, but in the interest of setting at least some of the record straight, this column attempts to splash a little reality on the catch share mystery.

  • Catch share programs have been used sporadically in commercial fisheries for decades. They were created to address a fundamental problem in some commercial fisheries – too many boats chasing too few fish, resulting in dangerous, wasteful derbies. If you have ever watched the early seasons of Deadliest Catch on The Discovery Channel, that was a derby fishery. The whistle blew, all the boats went to catch king crab no matter what the weather was, no one slept and they fished until someone, somewhere, calculated the quota had been caught and then the season ended. Some made a fortune, some went broke, and everyone fished in a manner to catch as much as possible as fast as possible regardless of the danger or bycatch involved. The fact that no one sleeps for 4 or 5 days at a time is the reason it’s called Deadliest Catch.
  • Staying with the Deadliest Catch theme, catch shares took the whole quota for king crab and divided it up among boats based on their past catch history. Each boat’s percentage effectively became “theirs” to harvest, however and whenever they liked during the season. The Northwestern, the Cornelia Marie, the Wizard, the Time Bandit and others all now “own” shares of the king crab fishery.
  • The goal of catch shares in that scenario is to eliminate the derbies and reduce bycatch. A by-product of catch shares is that inevitably, some boats will sell out or lease their share to other boats. The overall number of boats drops, until a relatively few big boats are left fishing. Ideally, the dangerous derbies are eliminated, bycatch is reduced and the economics improve. That is the goal of a catch share system in a purely commercial fishery.
  • Some environmental groups, Environmental Defense Fund foremost among them, became enamored, somewhat naively, with the prospects of applying catch shares to all fisheries, including recreational ones, based on their use, implementation and success in purely commercial fisheries. The critical disconnect is that no one at EDF understood or appreciated the vast differences between recreational fisheries and commercial fisheries. In EDF’s mind, catch shares were a solution to all fisheries problems.

Now, in order to set the stage for what comes next, you have to understand a separate but connected issue, and that is how allocations are set in mixed-use fisheries – fisheries that have both commercial and recreational participation. Allocations between recreational and commercial sectors have historically been based on catch history, often using time frames as short as selected three-year segments. Given federal managers’ history of promoting commercial fisheries, the time frames were often not favorable to the recreational sector.

Those allocations are essentially frozen, despite the growth of recreational angling and the growing economic contribution of the recreational sector. They are frozen because the reallocation process is a political nightmare for a Fishery Management Council. It is long, convoluted and tortuous, with lots of emotion thrown in for good measure. No Council member or staffer willingly endures it if he or she can possibly avoid it.

As a result, allocations that were set 20 or 30 years ago are completely out of whack with the demographics, population and public demand that exists today. When a stagnant recreational allocation combines with the constant migration to the nation’s coasts, the end result is that more and more recreational anglers are trapped chasing a fixed allotment of fish, resulting in shorter seasons and greater restrictions for everyone. The red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico is a prime example. About 300 commercial boats currently chase 51 percent of the entire harvest of red snapper in the Gulf under a catch share system. Hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers get the other 49 percent.

And no one in NOAA Fisheries has been interested in cracking the egg on reallocation.

  • Jumping back to catch shares, Dr. Jane Lubchenco was appointed to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2008. Dr. Lubchenco is a marine scientist with deep ties to EDF, including a stint on its board.
  • Not long after that appointment, the Obama Administration created the Catch Share Policy Task Force, signaling a new focus to broadly impose catch share systems on federal fisheries, including those enjoyed by recreational anglers. Compounding the complexity of this issue is the fact that the Obama Administration is filled with people from places like San Francisco and Chicago who do not exactly understand or appreciate saltwater recreational angling.
  • Promoted by a former board member of EDF – which doesn’t understand or appreciate recreational angling – in an Administration that doesn’t understand or appreciate recreational angling, the danger of a Catch Shares Policy Task Force was immediately clear. There was NOTHING to prevent catch shares from proceeding as a one-size-fits-all solution for the commercial and recreational sectors in every fishery.
  • A coalition of marine industry and fishery conservation groups, recognizing the need to become involved in the process of shaping the new policy, engaged the Administration on the issue of catch shares. At the same time, the coalition engaged with environmental groups that were heavily promoting catch share systems, including Environmental Defense Fund. The goal of that engagement was to educate them on the problems catch shares present for recreational anglers and shape the policy so that at the very least it was not detrimental to recreational angling.
  • That engagement is the source of a lot of confusion on the Internet. In the eyes of some conspiracy-theorist bloggers, by engaging the Administration and the environmental community on catch shares, the angling groups involved (CCA, CCC, TBF, IGFA, ASA, NMMA) were somehow “negotiating with the Devil,” “selling anglers out,” “getting on the EDF payroll,” etc. That line of thinking completely ignores the consequences of non-engagement.  An outcome driven by an EDF-driven Catch Share Policy Task Force, in an Administration that has no interest in recreational angling, could only be bad for sport fishermen. The belief that anyone can achieve a favorable outcome merely by turning their back on this issue and “just saying No” is pure political fantasy.
  • The coalition created a list of points to pursue in discussions with the administration, most of which are now included in the NOAA Catch Share Policy released in late 2010, such as:

- The coalition is and always has been firmly against catch shares for recreational anglers. The coalition does not believe they are an appropriate tool to manage recreational anglers under any circumstances.

- The coalition is firmly against separating the recreational sector into for-hire/charter and private boat designations.

- In mixed-use fisheries, those that have a quota for both recreational and commercial fishers, it may be determined that catch shares are an appropriate tool for the commercial sector. However, before implementing a commercial catch share system, the allocation must be redefined and updated using economic, social and conservation criteria.

- Once set, the new allocation must be reviewed periodically using those same criteria.

- In mixed-use fisheries that employ a catch share system for the commercial sector, the commercial shares must be made available for transfer to the recreational sector to allow for the growth of the recreational sector. The mechanism for transferring commercial shares could include state agencies, but is as yet undefined.

  • The coalition’s engagement effectively changed the Catch Share Policy from one that was initially poised to work against recreational anglers, to a tool that may be used to address the persistent allocation problems that have short-changed anglers for decades. Would this be the case if the coalition had not engaged? Absolutely not. We would certainly have a catch share policy, but there would be very little in it that might work FOR anglers.
  • Ideally, applying the current catch share policy in the Gulf of Mexico for red snapper, for example, could result in a 70% or 80% recreational share, with the potential to shift more commercial quota to the recreational side if economic, conservation and social factors determine it is warranted. Unfortunately, the policy does not apply to Gulf red snapper since a catch share system was implemented for that fishery in 2006. The outdated allocation for Gulf red snapper remains a stubborn problem seeking a solution. However, CCA is currently pursuing reallocation and transferability of commercial red snapper shares at the Gulf Council.

The coalition of groups that engaged with the Administration and the environmental community on catch shares stepped in to prevent a disaster for recreational anglers. Perhaps that is not as interesting as a good spy novel, full of intrigue, deception and betrayal, but this is not some daytime soap opera. This is a real-life fisheries debate, with real political consequences that must be confronted and dealt with.

When it comes to the Internet, it is good to remember that often the simplest explanation is correct. If it starts to sound like something Ian Fleming wrote, then maybe it has been written for entertainment purposes only. In fact, you should be suspicious of everything you read in chatrooms and online forums, which means you should even take this article with a grain of salt. At the very least, go see the complete text of CCA’s documents and testimony before Congress and letters to the Administration, and check out information about our lawsuit against the federal government and Environmental Defense Fund over the Gulf grouper catch share program. It’s all on the Catch Shares page in the Newsroom section of www.JoinCCA.org. Do some research and, by all means, decide for yourself.

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Gulf Council Focuses on Controversial Sector Separation

GULFPORT, MS – The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is meeting in Mississippi this week and the issue of sector separation is again in the spotlight as the Sustainable Fisheries/Ecosystems Committee voted to remove it from the Annual Catch Limit/Accountability Measure Amendment and re-frame it either as a stand-alone issue or attached to another amendment.

Sector separation is a controversial management proposal that would break the recreational sector into for-hire/charter and private boat angler categories. As it stands now, fisheries managers divide harvest quotas between commercial boats and recreational anglers. Under Sector Separation, managers would assign quotas to commercial boats, private boat anglers and charter/for-hire boats.

However the sector separation issue re-emerges, Coastal Conservation Association is reiterating its opposition to breaking up the recreational sector based on four key points:

  • The creation of imbalances in distribution of fish among anglers fishing from private boats and those fishing on charter vessels;
  • The creation of deep political conflicts within states as decision-makers grapple with how to spread fishing opportunities between private and charter sectors;
  • The challenges state fisheries directors will have when determining how Sector Separation will influence the growth in licensed anglers and fishing opportunities in their states;
  • Shorter public season for most offshore fishing. Private boat anglers will often be unable to pursue many species unless they pay a charter/for-hire vessel.

“There would be no desire for sector separation if we had adequate allocation for these fisheries in the first place, and the allocation problem is not going to be fixed through a management scheme that slices up the recreational sector,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “Sector separation will only create additional divisiveness among users and will further detract from the public’s ability to access these important natural resources.”

INTERESTING FACT: In 2008, private anglers spent $28 million on licenses in Florida for enforcement, habitat and management of the state’s resources.  The 3, 400 for-hire licenses brought in $1 million.

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Recreational sector stands united against sector separation

Overwhelming opposition to management scheme at Gulf Council workshop

TAMPA, FL – If the public comment period at the Sector Separation Workshop hosted by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is any indication, recreational anglers are united against any proposal to separate the recreational sector into for-hire/charter and private boat angler categories. The three-day workshop was put on by the Gulf Council this week ostensibly to help managers and stakeholders gain a better understanding of sector separation as a proposed management tool for recreational fisheries.

“CCA is opposed to sector separation simply because it makes recreational anglers compete against each other at a time when there seem to be fewer and fewer opportunities for anglers to pursue fish offshore,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “There would be no desire for sector separation if we had adequate allocation for these fisheries in the first place, and the allocation problem is not going to be fixed through a management scheme that slices up the recreational sector.”

As it stands now, fisheries managers divide harvest quotas between commercial boats and recreational anglers. Under Sector Separation, managers would assign quotas to commercial boats, private boat anglers and charter/for-hire boats. In testimony submitted to the Gulf Council, CCA focused on four key points in opposing sector separation:

  • The creation of imbalances in distribution of fish among anglers fishing from private boats and those fishing on charter vessels;
  • The creation of deep political conflicts within states as decision-makers grapple with how to spread fishing opportunities between private and charter sectors;
  • The challenges state fisheries directors will have when determining how Sector Separation will influence the growth in licensed anglers and fishing opportunities in their states;
  • Shorter public season for most offshore fishing. Private boat anglers will often be unable to pursue many species unless they pay a charter/for-hire vessel.

“Sector separation will only create additional divisiveness among users and will further detract from the public’s ability to access these important natural resources,” said Brewer. “We sincerely hope that Council members are listening to the overwhelming majority of recreational anglers who believe that this is not a good management tool for our sector. There is a long list of serious problems that need to be resolved before the Council should even consider taking on this kind of diversion.”

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CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the nation. With almost 100,000 members in 17 state chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. Visit www.JoinCCA.org for more information.

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Reallocation Is the Answer

Anglers left holding the bag with shortest red snapper season on record

NOAA Fisheries announced a perplexing paradox today that speaks to the flaws in the federal fisheries management system. In the release, NOAA Fisheries declared both an increase in the overall total allowable catch of Gulf red snapper in 2010 and the shortest recreational red snapper season on record, at the same time.

“We are very encouraged that a combination of factors, including shrimp trawl bycatch reduction and environmental impacts, have converged to produce a recovery in red snapper, at long last,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “However, there is obviously something systemically wrong with how this fishery is being managed when recreational red snapper anglers will be sitting at the dock more than 10 months of the year while the commercial sector fishes year-round.”

Even with a recovering stock, the recreational anglers from five Gulf States pursuing red snapper in the Gulf are still left with just 49 percent of the total allowable catch of 6.945 million pounds, while about 400 commercial fishermen are currently entitled to 51 percent of the harvest through a catch share system. A rebounding stock means recreational anglers are finding it easier to catch red snapper, and the fish they catch are bigger. With a quota set in total pounds, the only way the government is capable of controlling recreational harvest is to shorten the season. In 2010, that means 53 days.

“The next step for this fishery has to be a serious look at reallocation. When you think how much the demographics and economics of this fishery have changed since it was set at 51 percent commercial and 49 percent recreational, the current allocation is indefensible,” said Brewer. “We must have reallocation of fisheries where appropriate, and there is no greater need for this than in Gulf red snapper.”

At the recent Recreational Fishing Summit in Washington DC, commercial catch shares were credited by some federal fisheries managers for the recovery of Gulf red snapper, a claim that CCA and others in the recreational fishing community are quick to refute.

“There is an effort right now to credit catch shares with the recovery of Gulf red snapper, which is false advertising,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “This recovery is being fueled by the impact of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and others on the fishing fleet, by reductions in fishing effort due to high fuel prices, and by mandated reductions in shrimp trawl bycatch due to CCA legal action. Catch shares have succeeded in cementing in the current allocation and creating a 53-day recreational fishing derby, and that is about all.”

More information on Gulf red snapper, including a summary of a 2009 bioeconomic study conducted by Texas A&M University showing the overwhelming value of the recreational sector, can be found in the Gulf of Mexico section of the CCA Newsroom.

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Coalition Testimony on Catch Shares before House Subcommittee

Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Oversight Hearing Committee on Natural Resources United States House of Representatives

Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation delivered testimony on the U.S. Catch Share Policy before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Oversight Hearing, Committee on Natural Resources on behalf of CCC, American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association and The Billfish Foundation.

In his testimony, Angers conveyed that the organizations appreciate that implementing catch shares in commercial-only fisheries can be a useful tool for managing harvest, however they are an inherently inappropriate tool for recreational-only fisheries.

The groups have serious concerns about the potential impact of commercial catch shares on the recreational sector in mixed-use fisheries (in which there are both recreational and commercial components). Our organizations respectfully submit that the Draft Policy Catch Share Policy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under consideration lacks the necessary guidance to protect the recreational sector from adverse impacts associated with the implementation of a catch shares policy in mixed-use fisheries.

Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation

Given the cascading and substantial impacts of fisheries restrictions and closures currently underway in a number of key recreational fisheries, the protection of the recreational sector should be a priority for the Congress – and for NOAA Fisheries as it develops any new overarching policy on catch shares. At a minimum, NOAA should ensure that vital socio-economic information on recreational fisheries is gathered prior to the issuance of any final policy; undertake a re-evaluation of allocations prior to implementing a commercial catch share system, and allow inter-sector transfers of catch share quota through mechanisms that ensure equitable access to the recreational sector.

In mixed-use fisheries where there is a large and growing recreational sector, exclusive fishing rights proposals maximize benefits to the commercial fishing industry while ignoring the participation, conservation value and economic contribution of recreational fishing, which totals $80 billion and provides over half a million jobs – an economic impact equal to or greater than commercial fishing economic impacts.

For the complete testimony, click HERE.

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Anglers Cautiously Optimistic After Recreational Fishing Summit

CCA participants hope to see results after meeting with NOAA Fisheries

Outdoorsmen were out in force at the nation’s capital last week as two events in Washington DC were dedicated to how this country manages its wild and natural resources. As President Obama hosted the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors on April 16, NOAA Fisheries was hosting the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Summit on April 16-17.

Coastal Conservation Association President Pat Murray was among those invited to hear President Obama’s remarks on the importance of reconnecting Americans to the outdoors during the event at the Department of the Interior. Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, and Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, led the conference, which brought together leaders from communities across the country that are working to protect their outdoor spaces.  Participants included ranchers and farmers, sportsmen and women, State and local government leaders, Tribal leaders, public lands experts, conservationists, youth leaders, business representatives and others for whom the outdoors is an integral part of their culture and community.

Just across town, a host of CCA volunteers and staff were participating in the NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fishing Summit, an event that fulfilled a promise by NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco to forge a better relationship between the recreational angling community and federal fisheries managers.

“We have participated in these kinds of summits before with NOAA leadership. Some of the CCA participants attending last week have been to two or even three of them without much to show for their efforts,” said Bob Hayes, CCA General Counsel. “However, I am optimistic that NOAA is listening and will help us with issues like catch shares, National Ocean Policy and the government’s attitude toward the recreational angling community. We did our part – we were very clear about what we would like to see change, and we provided hundreds of ways for them to do it.”

CCA participants in the 2010 Recreational Fishing Summit included:

Bob Hayes, CCA General Counsel – Next Steps and Accountability
Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries Director – Key Challenges Facing Recreational Saltwater Fishing Today
Mike Kennedy, CCA Florida – Regional Perspectives – South Atlantic
Ed Sapp, CCA Florida – Regional Perspectives – Gulf of Mexico
Lee Blankenship, CCA Pacific Northwest – Regional Perspectives – Pacific Northwest
Pat Murray, CCA President – Visions of Success
Matt Paxton, CCA Federal Lobbyist
Scott McGuire, CCA Maryland
Charlie Witek, CCA New York
Bill Bird, CCA Florida
Chester Brewer, Chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee
Russell Nelson, CCA Gulf Fisheries Consultant
Rad Trascher, CCA Louisiana
Ted Venker, CCA Director of Communications

Reaction from CCA representatives was cautiously optimistic that tangible benefits may result from the summit.

“One of the fundamental problems we’ve had with NOAA Fisheries is their utter lack of understanding the nature and management of recreational fisheries,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries Director. ”No matter how hard they try, they cannot fit us neatly into the same management box as commercial fishermen.  While I will not bet the ranch on it, there are at least signs of hope emanating from this conference that NOAA Fisheries is trying to understand recreational fisheries and may begin to manage them properly.”

“Those who participated in the summit did a great job clarifying and communicating our issues and concerns,” said Chester Brewer, CCA National Government Relations Committee chairman. “Eric Schwaab (NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries) has committed to preparing a work plan and follow-up to address the major items. I am cautiously optimistic.”

The two-day summit featured more than 30 speakers from all over the country, with plenty of time set aside for discussions among participants on key challenges and solutions for federal fisheries management.

“The stage has been set,” said Charlie Witek, CCA New York. “It’s now time for all of the actors to properly play out their roles.  How they do so will determine whether the production will ultimately be viewed as a triumph, a flop or something in between.  I feel, though, that at least there are folks out there who want to offer some help.”

Both Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab spoke at the summit, which drew a greater-than-expected crowd of 170 attendees, some from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.

“The excellent turnout at this summit tells me that you want to be heard. And I am here to tell you that NOAA is not only listening, but we are also ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work with you,” said Dr. Lubchenco in her opening remarks. “I want to start by making one thing very clear: NOAA is committed to working with the recreational fishing community. NOAA’s commitment ‐‐my commitment‐‐ to saltwater anglers is not a hollow one. We do not intend to make empty promises.”

Schwaab told participants he had three goals for the summit: to walk away with a clear and common understanding of the issues of concern and some sense of the relative importance of those issues, nationally, regionally and strategically; to outline a process by which we will continue to work together on these issues, and to identify steps that can be taken to address these concerns; this will form the basis of an action agenda.

“We are here with a view toward the future, intent to build on previous successes, while learning from and avoiding mistakes of the past,” he said. “Over the next two days, we’ll have some focused discussions – about our desired outcomes, and pathways toward those outcomes.”

NOAA Fisheries will be posting video taken at the event to the agency’s web site in a couple of weeks, along with a complete copy of Dr. Lubchenco and Eric Schwaab’s remarks and other information. Other material on the event, including agenda packet, background documents, survey results and related documents may be found HERE.

Obama Admin Looks to Cast a Line With Anglers – New York Times, April 16, 2010

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EDF raises stakes in catch share lawsuit

Environmental Defense Fund intervenes to thwart CCA catch share lawsuit

FORT MYERS, FL – Seeking to defend a controversial catch share program for Gulf grouper, the Environmental Defense Fund has been allowed to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Coastal Conservation Association in federal district court that challenges the adoption and implementation of Amendment 29 to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan.

“This was not wholly unexpected. After all, EDF has made a considerable investment in its efforts to enact catch share programs in fisheries throughout America so this lawsuit is clearly a threat to their program,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee. “The intervention of EDF simply clarifies what is at stake for recreational fishermen, not just in the Gulf of Mexico, but everywhere in the country.”

Amendment 29 gives away a majority share of Gulf grouper to the commercial fishing industry through a catch share program that has been heavily promoted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). CCA filed the lawsuit in September of 2009 seeking to overturn the catch share program and force the federal government to consider the impacts of such action on other participants in the fishery.

Catch share systems bestow a percentage of a public fishery resource to a select group of commercial fishermen to harvest for their own personal gain. The commercial entities pay nothing back to the public for the permanent property right to harvest a public resource, but catch share systems are nonetheless being emphasized in federal fisheries as a way to reduce overcapacity and improve economic efficiency in the commercial sector. CCA has contended that in fisheries where there is a large and growing recreational sector, exclusive fishing rights proposals maximize benefits to the commercial fishing industry while ignoring the participation and beneficial economic impacts of recreational fishing.

“As we have seen with the red snapper catch share program, the stakes for recreational anglers are very high in this lawsuit. It continues to surprise me the extent to which the environmental community seems willing to go to keep commercial fishing operations in business at all costs,” said Brewer. “Giving away permanent harvesting rights to the commercial fishing industry through catch share programs is a threat to the future of recreational angling and we are completely committed to seeing this lawsuit through to a successful conclusion. Anglers have too much to lose.”

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CCA Hails Breakthrough on Catch Share Management

Congress directs fisheries managers to address impacts to recreational angling

HOUSTON, TX Coastal Conservation Association applauds the U.S. Congress for recognizing the need to address impacts to recreational angling as a result of the U.S. Catch Share Policy. Language inserted into the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill currently awaiting President Obama’s signature directs the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to provide a report within 90 days of the bill’s enactment on the effect of catch share program management to recreational fishing.

“It is reassuring to know that members of Congress understand the significance of recreational angling and are concerned about policies that may have a negative impact on it,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “NMFS is so mired in its commercial fishing past and present that it cannot seem to even consider a future with a robust recreational fishery. With the language in this bill, Congress instructs the agency to pay attention to what their policies are doing to recreational fishermen.”

The language that was included in the bill was supported by CCA, the American Sportfishing Association and the Center for Coastal Conservation and requires the agency to report “how data collection for recreational catches will improve in fisheries where the commercial sector receives catch shares; and how allocation conflicts between recreational and commercial sectors will be resolved.” The report is to be provided to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.

“Unresolved issues with catch share programs present serious challenges not just to recreational anglers, but also thousands of businesses, such as boat builders and tackle manufacturers, that depend on our access to healthy, sustainable marine resources,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center. “By working together to present our concerns, these groups were able to work with our elected officials to protect recreational angling, and that is a huge step forward.”

“A commercial catch share system could have a devastating impact on recreational fishing if the system is enacted without the appropriate analysis,” said Patty Doerr, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association. “NMFS has the responsibility to ensure that all sectors are treated fairly when instituting such far-reaching management measures. Assuming NMFS takes this responsibility seriously, the Congressionally-mandated report is a good first step towards ensuring that anglers are not unnecessarily disadvantaged as the Obama administration advocates for the increased use of catch share systems.”

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NOAA Draft Catch Share Policy

Dec. 10, 2009
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases its Draft Catch Share Policy

Public comment period will end on April 10, 2010

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