Gulf Council Approves Final Grouper/Tilefish Management Plan that Benefits Fish and Fishermen

January 30, 2009
Contact: 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Heather Paffe, 512.691.3401 or 512.431.6854-c
Media Contact: Laura Williamson, 512.691.3447 or 512.828.1690-c or
lwilliamson@edf.org

(Austin, TX – January 30, 2009) The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council (Council) made its final decision yesterday afternoon in favor of adopting an individual fishing quota (IFQ) management plan for commercially-caught grouper and tilefish. It also took the monumental first step towards incorporating all remaining reef fish into the plan, which would create the first comprehensive reef fish IFQ in the world.

“IFQs are gaining widespread support throughout the Gulf. It is not every day that environmentalists, regulators and industry are all on the same side of an issue,” said Heather Paffe, director of the Gulf Oceans Program for Environmental Defense Fund. 

The Council voted 13-4 in favor of implementing a grouper and tilefish IFQ, which will take effect in January 2010. The Secretary of Commerce is expected to sign-off on the plan and workshops to train grouper fishermen to fish under an IFQ are already being planned.

“We applaud the Council for moving forward with IFQs, which provide so many benefits to fishermen, fishing communities and the environment,” said Paffe.

There is already a successful IFQ program in the Gulf for the red snapper fishery which has reduced wasteful discarded fish, dramatically extended the fishing season, and increased the quality and market value of fish.

“The potential environmental and economic benefits of managing grouper along with snapper under an IFQ are enormous,” said Paffe.

In a separate action, the Council also agreed to explore IFQ management for vermilion and yellow-edged snapper, grey triggerfish and greater amberjack – the last remaining reef fish species not under an IFQ.

“The fastest way to recover ailing fisheries in the Gulf is to implement a comprehensive reef fish IFQ,” said Paffe. “The efficiency of managing all reef fish under an IFQ is unbeatable. A comprehensive plan will provide consistent regulations, improve efficiency of fishermen and law enforcement and will cost less to manage.”

IFQs work by dividing the scientifically set catch limit among fishermen and letting them find the most efficient way to catch their portion of the fish. Proven benefits of IFQs include longer fishing seasons, reduced waste, improved safety for fishermen and a stable source of locally caught fish for restaurants and food markets.