Since we introduced the CFA fishery management plan to create sector allocations in the remaining major reef fish species IE red and gag grouper ,amberjacks and gray triggerfish there's been much discussion. One of the arguments against putting grouper in this plan is the issue of the data showing the low percentages of catch for the charter sector for red and gag grouper.
My first comment before we look at any numbers is the fact ( or theory ) that those numbers will reflect the execution of the grouper fishery in the charter for hire industry historically . They also reflect the execution of the fishery in the private boat sector. And this data is what's going to be used to determine sector allocations if an amendment is formed and signed by the Secretary of Commerce into law.
The reason CFA is pushing for sector's allocation in the other major reef fish is the very same reason we did it originally for red snapper. Its the same dynamic when we recognized due to us being a limited access privilege program with moratorium fishing permits that we were losing the war of access by attrition. Our access in that fishery was being diminished greatly by the fact that our main competitors the private angling sector has no limitations on the amount of participants or effort outside of seasons of bag limits. So to stop that deterioration of our access we had to do something different and the only way to survive was to create sector allocations for that species for the CFH sector to ensure the historical transfer of our industry to the next generation.
And more importantly provide a fishery management plan that would protect the resource by stopping over fishing in our sector and ensuring a secure level of access for the non-boat owning public. Needless to say Amendment 40 has been a lifesaver for our industry from key West all the way to Brownsville Texas. Not only did it provide us a solid business model but it also increased the value of our permits in the sustainability and viability of being charter business owners. And what we now recognize even though it's a much slower process our access to all these other reef fish species is still death ,but because not at the rate as red snapper its still death by a thousand cuts.
We recognize the percentages of catch in our sector is very low for gag and red grouper But a large part of that is less than 20% of CFH permit holders catch a 90% of the resource during the regular open seasons for these species. So there's two key issues one is with the latest stock assessments and the possibility of reduced seasons under the present management plan it's going to create even a more accelerated reduction in catch in our industry and loss of access but the most alarming stat of all if you look in the white paper is the change in effort it's happening in all four species.
The change in effort the pat 9 years in relation to the entire history of our fisheries is big in AJ and Triggers but will only highlight the red grouper and gag. Red Grouper Effort private rec vs CFH 1992-2019 priv 92.2% cfh 7.8% last 8 yrs 2012-2019 pri 90.1%- cfh
9.9% red grouper is the only species where there is a slight increase in effort for the charter for higher sector and some of that could be because red grouper fishing got tougher after the red tide events.
The charter guys were the ones still having success because they ran further. But this could really change if the new Red Grouper FMP reduces the season to 6 months or less in 2021 . But gag grouper it's a total different story the effort went from 88.4% - 11.6% using the whole history 1992-2019 to a whopping change of 93.8% priv to a mere 6.2 % CFH in gag effort using the last 9 yrs.
In other words the increase in effort by the private boat sector has vastly reduced access and effort for gag fishing for the charter for higher industry and their customers. And the catch attributed to that change in effort is also evident with the private boat catch at 80% from 1992 to 2019 to a whopping 89.9% 2012 to 2019. The hand writing is on the wall, the historical catch of the Charter industry has been eaten away by the increase in effort by a group whose participant level has no limitations.
And lastly the point I want to make for the people that have been against sector allocations in the grouper fisheries because the percentages are so low is the fact and it's been proven by amendment 40 that once you have your sector allocation the CFH participants in the fishery will pretty much continue to have increased access as the fishery rebuilds. 14.1% may not sound like much but we're not talking about an individual fish quota to where you're splitting it 1,220 ways that 14.1% represents ( 1992-2019
771,111.41 lbs annually ) more than 90% of that fishery being caught on the Florida West Coast using the historical seasons and bag limits. That would only change if stock assessments reduce the catch for all recreational fishers. Other wise that 14.1 % will take all year to catch . Even the data shows there are well more than a thousand permit holders that won't land a red or gag grouper in an entire year. ( panhandle with almost 350 permits is only 1.5 % of red grouper landings ) as an example.
Having sector allocations in these other species will preserve a set access level for the none boat owning public, prevent overfishing in that portion of the fishery , ensure the CFH sector has generational success as the next young fishers steps to the plate and it WILL bring more value to your business and permits as proven by the success of AM 40 .
Capt Gary Jarvis
Executive Director CFA