CCA Testimony on Sector Separation to Gulf Council
The primary concern that CCA has with sector separation is that taking fish from private boat anglers does not seem to provide any benefit for recreational anglers, the states, or for state budgets. I'd like to stress that we have no quarrel with the charter/for-hire sector - we see them as our partners and allies in recreational angling. We are concerned about pitting one group of anglers against another. We don't want to stand here and fight the charter/for-hire sector for days on the water down the road.
There continue to be vague references to better data but there is no new way to track catches on for-hire vessels. If the sectors were separated today, MRFFS/MRIP would continue to provide catch estimates for private and for-hire sport vessels. Any new data collection system could be implemented without separating the sectors.
Economically, we question whether sector separation makes sense. NOAA has funded bio-economic studies that show that for the period 2009 to 2032, recreational anglers will contribute $9.1 billion of the value in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp and reef fish fisheries while the recreational for-hire fishery will generate $0.83 billion.
Other economic figures should also be examined in this debate. The NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Science and Technology looked at economic impacts and expenditures from saltwater sport fishing in 2009. That information indicates that here in Texas, angler expenditures came to almost $103 million while for-hire expenditures came to about $27 million. Gulf-wide, angler expenditures came to over $1 billion, for-hire expenditures came to about $208 million.
Behind all these points is the trend over the past decade towards increased red snapper catch by the private vessel sector relative to for-hire catches. We do not know why this trend has occurred but do not believe the Council should impose government action to reverse what has occurred naturally. We believe these dynamic changes should occur without artificial influence by managers, and without the outdated encumbrance of sector allocations that seem set in stone.
Before this Council gets into uncharted and highly controversial territory with sector separation, CCA encourages you to first reallocate fisheries according to modern factors like economic, social and conservation criteria, rather than outdated catch history. We encourage the Council to first get a new assessment of red snapper using as much fishery independent data as possible. There is a very good chance that doing both would solve many of the problems faced by the CFH sector without creating so many new problems.
CCA also advocates exploring a means to transfer red snapper IFQ shares between sectors. This approach would allow those for-hire Captains who also hold commercial shares to use those shares to enhance their charter business.
This Council faces many real management challenges, and CCA appreciates the demands of those challenges on your time and resources. We hope that the Council will elect to focus its energies on those core issues and set aside the distraction of sector separation.