The battle between recreational and commercial fishermen shows its ugly face in the allotment of catch shares.
- There is concern that in the long-run, catch share programs would benefit big commercial fishers while putting those smaller sized fishermen and sport fishermen at risk of losing access and work.
- Catch share programs may create huge problems for recreational anglers. When applied in mixed-use fisheries, such as the Gulf, recreational anglers are forced to focus their efforts in limited state waters or to not participate in the fishery at all.
- Catch shares once distributed can be leased or sold to eligible parties including individuals, communities, fishing cooperatives, and states, which can further distribute the catch.
At the heart of the saltwater fishing management issues are “catch shares.”
According to the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), catch share programs set a biologically based annual catch limit for a specific fish species and allocate a specific portion of that limit to different entities, such as commercial fishermen, cooperatives or communities.
One of those communities is recreational anglers, and the amount of data the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has on recreational anglers versus commercial anglers is very small.
With their share secure, commercial fishermen can be more selective about how and when they catch their allotment, according to CCA. And when designed correctly, catch share programs help eliminate the mob-like mentality to target a specific fish species, reduce catching more fish than legally allowed and by catch, and improve economic efficiency.
Unfortunately, in fisheries where there is a large and growing recreational sector, the commercial fishing industry trumps the demand for the average angler. Due to the lack of information on the recreational catches on many species, such as striped bass, sea trout, grouper, and red drum, debates between NOAA and the sportsmen community continue to ensure the economic value of recreational industry is given the same attention as that of the commercial industry. The current law of the oceans fisheries management, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, dictates that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to set catch limits and accountability measures for about 550 fish species. The problem is that NOAA has only completed a little more than 100 of these assessments.