Struggling Gulf Grouper Fishermen Approve Individual Fishing Quota Plan in Landslide Vote

January 7, 2009
Contact: Heather Paffe, Environmental Defense Fund, 512.691.3401-o or 512.431.6854-c or Dean Pruitt, Gulf Fishermen’s Association, 727.512.2609-c
Media Contact: Laura Williamson, Environmental Defense Fund, 512.691.3447-w or 512.828.1690-c or

(Austin, TX – January 7, 2009) Gulf of Mexico commercial grouper and tilefish fishermen overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new management plan called an individual fishing quota (IFQ) for their fishery, the National Marine Fisheries Service recently announced. The concept of managing fisheries through IFQs is gaining momentum in the Gulf as a means of ensuring a viable future for the commercial fishing industry and coastal communities.  They work by dividing the scientifically set catch limit among fishermen and giving them the flexibility to determine how and when to catch their allotment of fish.
“The biggest benefit for grouper fishermen is that they will never have to worry about season closures again,” said Dean Pruitt, a grouper fisherman and founder of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association. “The IFQ will create a year-round season that will eliminate “derby” fishing and allow us to fish when the prices are high. This IFQ is good for our future.”
Ninety percent of the 303 fishermen eligible to vote cast ballots, resulting in 220 fishermen voting in favor of the plan. After approval of the results at the Jan. 27-30 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting, the plan will be sent to the federal government for implementation, expected for the 2010 fishing season.
“An 81 percent landslide vote in favor of an IFQ clearly shows that fishermen want new management,” said Heather Paffe, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Oceans Program for Environmental Defense Fund.  “This IFQ will create value and stability in an industry that hasn’t had any before, while simultaneously ensuring stewardship of the resource and its habitat. We’re thrilled that fishermen have taken the final step in making this IFQ a reality.”
An IFQ program for red snapper was implemented in 2007 and has already shown positive results for the fishing industry, local economies and the ecosystem, including a significant reduction of wasted fish, an extension of the fishing season from 90 days to year round, and an increase in the quality and market value of the fish.
“The final step in securing the future of the Gulf’s commercial reef fish fishery is to include the last three commercially valuable species into the IFQ along with red snapper, grouper and tilefish: vermillion snapper, amberjack and triggerfish,” said Paffe. This will create a consistent management structure for the entire fishery and is likely to show the same benefits as other IFQ programs, including longer fishing seasons.”