In testimony before a US Senate panel, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today urged Congress to remove its prohibition on fishing quotas and let the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council do its job.
Testifying before the US Senate Subcommittee on Oceans and Fisheries, EDF economist Pete Emerson said, "The only way to end financial ruin and environmental damage in the reef fish fishery is to adopt transferable fishing quotas." Under this plan, each captain would be assigned a fixed percentage of the total allowable catch, which can be either harvested or sold to another fisherman.
"Give the Gulf Council the flexibility needed to design a comprehensive individual transferable quota (ITQ) program for the reef fish fishery," Emerson said in his testimony. "An ITQ program would end the economically destructive red snapper derby, significantly reduce bycatch by eliminating long season closures, help prevent overfishing of healthy stocks, and speed rebuilding of overfished stocks.
"Six Gulf fish species are currently classified as 'overfished' or 'approaching an overfished condition,'" Emerson said. Current fishing management regulations hurt fishermen and coastal communities. "In reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Congress can help the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service and concerned citizens solve some of their own problems."
Pam Baker, an EDF fisheries biologist, said, "With transferable fishing quotas in place, the incentives are right for fishermen to be the environmental stewards of our oceans. Only when this is accomplished can we make significant progress toward saving fish and protecting the Gulf's marine ecosystem."
The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national NY-based nonprofit organization, represents 300,000 members. EDF links science, economics, and law to create innovative, equitable, and economically viable solutions to today's environmental problems.