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March 11, 2011

South Atlantic Council votes down catch shares

Anglers applaud decision to terminate catch share development in Amendment 21

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA - Recreational anglers are applauding the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's decision today to "terminate all work relative to catch share development in Amendment 21," the Comprehensive Catch Share Amendment. In a motion by Council member George Geiger of Florida, the Snapper Grouper Committee yesterday voted to remove catch shares from Amendment 21, setting up today's action by the full Council. The decision is good news for recreational anglers who have been fighting the concept of catch shares as a one-size-fits-all 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 CCA'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 set a biologically based annual catch limit for a fish stock and allocate a specific portion of that catch limit to entities, such as commercial fishermen, cooperatives or communities. Unfortunately, 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 fishing. CCA has engaged in a multi-tiered strategy to lessen the recreational sector's exposure to the negative impacts of catch share programs.

"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.