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Fishing times are a hard, let's give all options a chance.

Posted By: Matthew Ruby | February 18, 2011

Myrtle Beach Sun News
It's not a good time to be in the fishing business. I've been supporting my family in the snapper grouper fishery for 15 years. With a down economy and more government regulations piled on us every year, we're all fighting just to stay afloat.

I think a catch share could be a serious option to help the snapper grouper commercial fishery.

A commercial catch share works by giving each fisherman a percentage of fish for the long-term and helps avoid restrictive seasons, area closures and trip limits. A catch share program could give fishermen an opportunity to take back control of the fishery, stay on the water, and better market our local fish. 

The lack of data is one of the biggest fishery challenges we face today and catch shares could provide much needed data through careful reporting and tracking of fish. Catch shares have helped bring better data collection and enforcement to other fisheries world-wide.

With catch shares, we could have year-round fishing seasons with fish markets selling local fish and avoiding imports. Catch shares can also build strong fish stocks and prevent overfishing. 

At this point, we do not need to take any fishery management option off the table, including catch shares, to ensure a future for the commercial snapper grouper fishery. 

I've also been hearing a lot of misinformation about catch shares would like to comment on.

First, catch shares should not be designed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service without substantial fishermen input. Commercial fishermen are essential to ensuring a snapper grouper catch share design that meets our needs and the fishery's goals. 

Second, catch share design can put restrictions that limit the amount of fish quota any one fisherman can hold. Under current management there are no restrictions on the number of permits any one person can hold.
Third, catch shares fishermen can restrict outside corporations and non-profits from holding quota and make sure that someone doesn't buy up quota and not use it. Currently anyone can buy fishing permits. This highlights another point: restricted access to fishing is not new. Only the 700 snapper grouper commercial fishermen in the South Atlantic region who own a fishing permit are allowed to commercial harvest snapper grouper. 

Fourth, catch shares actually make good business sense by providing a greater level of stability for all snapper grouper fishermen. Under a catch share fishermen could match their fishing to weather conditions, market prices, and family needs through buying, selling or leasing quota throughout the year. 

I've talked with fishermen from Alaska, New England, British Columbia and Gulf of Mexico about the improvements in their fishery. Given the option between catch shares and the old way of management, none of these fishermen said they would go back to the old way of fishing. 

Current management – seasons and other limits – is killing us and it's just going to get worse. We have to think about fishing differently and explore solutions like catch shares. Our fishing futures depend on it.

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