FS Openers: Re-Allocation YES

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Ever since we began carping about commercially dominated fisheries management,

more than 40 years ago, the misuse of one longish word has stymied recreational anglers.

Allocation.

Or, who gets ’em.

For many species such as red snapper, tons of the fish are taken in huge quantities and sent to market while recreational anglers are relegated to just a few. Or none.

The imbalance persists even though study after study, and common sense if that has anything to do with it, show that the most overall benefits when stocks are overfished, come from allocating catches to non-commercial use.

Under the influence of large-scale industry powers, the allocation system has been mired in another one-word rut. History.

Golden tilefish. Based on Reagan-era landings data, over 95 percent of the catches allowed in Atlantic waters are reserved for the commercial market.

Historical catch estimates are what fisheries managers have used to justify the perpetuation of large-scale for-sale takes, regardless of what other uses may trigger the most benefits

to the most citizens, and society overall. When it comes to making the allocation decisions, the prime consideration is not what’s best, but what’s been done in the past.

That level of thinking is why we have half of red snapper takes devoted to selling the fish even as Joe Citizen is locked out from limited year-around catches.

But wait. Now, NOAA Fisheries at long last has come out with a Fisheries Allocation Review Policy that supposedly will address fairness for individual citizens instead of pandering to lobbyists for groups that actually represent relative handfuls of people.

It’s too soon to determine whether the new allocation policy will bear fillets for the fishing public. But we can be cautiously encouraged.

After all, there are strong precedents galore in the freshwater world and in places like the Everglades National Park where there is no commercial taking and only limited family-level angling.

It’s been an upcurrent battle to change allocation mindsets. We commend organizations

such as the Coastal Conservation Association and American Sportfishing Association, as well as some legislators who are belatedly starting to understand the allocation misjudgments of the past.

As we’ve hammered away for eons, fish should be allocated to all individuals equally, unless there is a marketable surplus, and even then, sell with care.

We still recall the warning from a conservationist of yore: “Put a price tag on a fish and kiss it goodbye.”

First Published Florida Sportsman October 2016

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