Scientists to Explore ACL dilemma

CCA comments on problematic Annual Catch Limit regulations at NOAA workshop

Posted on February 14, 2011

SILVER SPRING, MD – A workshop hosted jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the regional Fishery Management Councils and nationally recognized experts this week will give the first opportunity to convey to federal managers the need to mitigate the severe negative impacts of the current annual catch limit (ACL) requirements on the recreational sector.

Annual catch limits are a particularly difficult component of the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. ACLs and other related provisions were included ostensibly to prevent managers from caving in to political pressure to allow unsustainable harvests to occur on marine resources. They were designed specifically to address the rampant, serial overfishing exemplified by the New England commercial groundfish fishery, but they are being applied to all fisheries everywhere, including recreational fisheries, in a one size fits all manner. Because NOAA Fisheries has failed to collect the required data and science for recreational fisheries in the past, it has a very limited ability to properly manage them to today’s ACL requirements, resulting in absurd regulations that are inflaming the recreational angling community.

“Short of modifying ACLs legislatively, there are at least some steps that can be taken now to lessen the negative impact of this provision,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “NOAA Fisheries is currently attempting to manage recreational anglers with ACLs and at this time it is like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole.”

CCA will raise concerns at the workshop for federal managers, including several recent examples of fisheries closures and related economic impacts, the lack of recreational catch data, and the startling dearth of contemporary stock assessments that are the very basis for current management. CCA raised many of these concerns during the recent South Atlantic Fishery Management Council public hearings.

“Ending overfishing is the right goal, but I can’t imagine anyone in Congress intended to achieve that goal by simply ending fishing,” said Brewer. “The 2006 reauthorization of Magnuson was characterized by a desire to finally correct some institutional deficiencies in the management of commercial fisheries, but all indications are that the pendulum swung too far for this to be a reasonable management requirement for all fisheries.”


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. For more information visit the CCA Newsroom at