Gulf Council Focuses on 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.