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Thread: IFQ, Misunderstandings and Fishing Rights Violations

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    Default IFQ, Misunderstandings and Fishing Rights Violations

    My Understanding of Our Fishery

    It has become clear to me now that I’ve been to Alaska and witnessed some of their many fisheries what the future holds for the Gulf of Mexico. (GOM) What is most frightening to me is the lack of public interest and knowledge in the commercial affairs pertaining to a federal fishery that is owned by every U.S. citizen. (In the GOM federal waters start from nine miles offshore and extend to 200 miles offshore of the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Every citizen in the U.S. is a stakeholder in the federal waters of the GOM and has equal rights to its resources. Very few citizens in our country realize that we all have rights to all the federal waters governed by the U.S.) What the average recreational fisherman needs to understand is that once a draconian measure in the commercial sector is implemented then the recreational fisherman can expect similar results to happen to them. While I am still learning more and more about these processes every day the light of truth has slowly begun to illuminate a nearly treason like plan that our patriots in our established fishery service have masterminded. Granted some of these questions and accusations that I will be bringing up in this essay could be well off balance and cause this paper to list a bit to port or starboard but I think you will find the overall information that you are about to read will be enough to open your thought process and help you make the journey from a sea of stormy ignorance to the calm clear waters of education.

    One serious stumbling block that average recreational and commercial fishermen on the West Coast of Florida have in front of both parties is misinformation. Three major issues have kept in-fighting alive between both parties while the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has brokered deals to sell away our rights to the highest bidder. Here are the major misunderstandings I believe hinder progress in our fishery.

    1. Commercial long liners are the death and destruction of our resource and are the sole contributor to unhealthy fish stocks.
    2. Our current form of management is so broken Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) is the only way to solve the problem.
    3. Environmental groups firmly planted in the NMFS are the reason behind such drastic commercial and recreational cutbacks in Total Allowable Catch. (TAC)


    Let us start with the first and most hotly debated issue on the list. Despite what many recreational fishermen believe long lining in the GOM is not the main reason behind all of our grouper and snapper problems. The NMFS has done nothing to alleviate this uneducated view of reality to keep the heat off of itself and onto a blue collar working class population. If you are angry at the long line boats than this is less anger directed at the NMFS office and the Gulf Council phone lines and email servers. Because the above lines are so important for you to understand I’m going to type it again but in bold letters so it has a chance to soak in thoroughly. The NMFS has done nothing to alleviate this uneducated view of reality to keep the heat off of itself and onto a blue collar working class population. If you are angry at the long line boats than this is less anger directed at the NMFS office and the Gulf Council phone lines and email servers.

    Granted long lining in its current form of management does pose a threat to the overall health of our fishery but that could change and it could be done very easily. To satisfy me I could live with long lines in the GOM if they eliminated waste. I hate wasting a resource. Why is the NMFS allowing 10 million pounds of grouper to be killed but only 7 million pounds are being brought to market? Grouper and other fish are being thrown back dead into the water because they are either too small, out of season, or the vessel does not have the proper IFQ to keep the fish. On all long line vessels that work the GOM it should be required that every fish brought aboard be kept and brought to market. This would then allow fisheries scientists and policy makers to paint a more accurate picture of what is in the GOM and where it came from. Already all commercial vessels are required to have a Vessel Monitoring System. (VMS) All NMFS scientists would have to do to find out what is in the GOM where the vessel fished would be to pull the data from the VMS and then watch the catch be unloaded. Unfortunately most fishermen be they commercial or recreational have serious problems with this much data being given to the NMFS because in the past helping the government has only lead to the government sticking it to the fisherman. Let us look at a quick outline of a simple long line restructuring plan that would be beneficial to the GOM and the fisherman.

    Every fish caught on long lines must be brought to market. This has three immediate benefits that I can think of off the top of my head.
    • No waste.
    • Less fuel and other expenses for the fishing vessel trying to fill its boxes.
    • Accurate information on what kind of fish populations are in the GOM where the vessel fished.


    These ideas are just something to consider and with new data or communication with fisherman my ideology on this way of fishing is subject to change.

    Now for subject number two. I will try my best to condense what I know and understand about Individual Fishing Quotas and the monstrous corruption that is happening and will happen once all fish in the GOM go IFQ. What is IFQ? IFQ is the Individual Fishing Quota that the NMFS has so graciously bestowed upon fisherman according to the catch history of his particular fishing permit. The NMFS recently made American Red Snapper go to IFQ at the beginning of this year. (Jan. 2007) Here is how they divided up the commercial TAC. For example: lets say Capt. Joe catches an average of 5,000 pounds of American Red Snapper (ARS) every year over the sample of years taken by the NMFS and Capt. Bob catches an average of 10,000 pounds of ARS every year over those same sample of years. NMFS would then award Capt. Joe 5,000 pounds of IFQ for ARS and Capt. Bob 10,000 pounds of IFQ for ARS that can be caught at any point during that year. Once the IFQ allotted poundage is caught then not until the next year can that IFQ be fished again. Right now to own and keep ARS IFQ you either were allotted it or you must buy it from some one who is selling their IFQ poundage. You also must keep the IFQ attached to a valid Commercial GOM Reef Fish Permit. Once the ARS IFQ program is five years old than any U.S. citizen can buy and own IFQ poundage without it being attached to a GOM Commercial Reef Fish Permit.

    The current fair market value for ARS IFQ that is already fished for this year is around $10.50 a pound, if it has not been fished than you can get ARS IFQ for $12.50 a pound. At this point in this very long commercial fishing exposé you are probably asking why on earth should I care at all about this when I’m only a recreational fisherman and I have no desire to commercially fish the GOM? Bare with me for just a few more paragraphs this is going to get your blood boiling.

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    When the NMFS decided last year to take ARS to IFQ they also decided that the recreational fisherman were catching too much of their own fish. The daily ARS bag limit for GOM recreational fisherman was four per person per day at a minimum size of 16 overall inches and only during May through November (open recreational season). At the beginning of 2007 NMFS chopped the recreational fisherman’s daily bag limit to two per person, keeping the minimum size limit and considering a shorter open season. Also at the beginning of the year the NMFS told the commercial fisherman to play by the new IFQ rules, which entailed no closed fishing days only a poundage limit, and as an added bonus they can now keep ARS starting at 13 inches overall.

    Note to self. Whenever the commercial guys lose ability to keep fish the recreational fisherman are also going to lose ability to keep fish. All of a sudden IFQ is putting a bad taste in my mouth but do not fret it is only going to get more infuriating. According to my understanding of the ARS IFQ rules IFQ can be bought by anyone who has enough money and finds a willing party to sell. So in theory a corporation large enough and with enough money could buy every last pound of ARS IFQ. Let us take that one step further and say that a corporation that owns most of the larger fish houses across the GOM and a number of the larger fishing vessels in the GOM could buy up all the ARS IFQ and control the commercial ARS poundage from ocean to fish house. But let us not stop there since we are on the crazy train of unfathomable silly conspiracy theories. Let’s say a large corporation for example has billions of dollars and is shown favor by the masses. In theory Wal Mart could buy all the fishing boats they needed, all the fish houses for their boats to dock at, all the ARS IFQ and then sell all the ARS in their nicely controlled market at all of their super centers. Controlled in total, also known as a monopoly from the time the fish leaves the water to the time it reaches your plate. That could never happen though. The free market world that sells fish to us from other countries would be able to sell fish so cheep to our U.S. market that a monopolized U.S. wild caught fish market would not be able to compete with it. Until the U.S. government installs a huge import tax on foreign fish (tariff). It’s a great plan. The corporations win, the U.S. government gets more taxes and the public gets hung out to dry.

    One more for the road, just for fun. What if a fish hugging group of individuals started taking their donations and buying up ARS IFQ? U.S. citizens would then be unable to commercially fish ARS.

    Remember these are just my theories on what might happen. Take all of this with a grain of salt. What we can look at right now is what is happening and this is the reason why I’ve concocted this whole essay. October 2007’s issue of National Fisherman magazine has a monthly update on all of the councils that govern our different sectors of our federal waters. The GOM update is this:

    “The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has listed a proposal for individual fishing quotas (IFQ) among five options for making the grouper fishery more efficient. Phil Steel, NMFS’ assistant fisheries administrator for the region, said an IFQ plan would be “a good thing for the fishery,” according to The Naples Daily News, but the paper also quoted a fisherman who said he had “mixed feelings.”

    It will likely be months before a decision is made and the new regime may not be in place until 2009.

    Red snapper fishermen have been working under an IFQ system since January.”


    So what do we find out about that little bit of information? The Gulf Council is “thinking” about making grouper IFQ and it may not be in place until 2009. I’ll translate that for you. THE GULF COUNCIL IS GOING TO MAKE GROUPER IFQ BY 2009! What did we learn about ARS going IFQ? Well recreational fisherman be prepared to lose more of your grouper catch.

    Now let us turn to the very back of the October issue of National Fisherman and look at a small article hidden away. Pay close attention and see if you connect the dots the way I have.

    JAPANESE SEAFOOD MERGER THREATEN PRICES IN ALASKA

    “Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has asked federal agencies to probe the socioeconomic effects of a merger between two of Japan’s largest seafood companies. Maruha Group and Nichiro Corp. have significant holdings in Alaska, and the merger stands to reduce competition in some of the state’s strongest fishing communities.

    The takeover by Maruha Group, which was announced last December, would put Peter Pan Seafoods, Alyeska Seafoods, Westward Seafoods and the Golden Alaska in the same camp – a move that could dampen the prices that the respective seafood companies pay for Pollock, crab and salmon.

    In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission, Palin expressed those concerns with the reminder that consolidation of the seafood companies could cause snags within the inshore-offshore Pollock allocations and in the recently rationalized Bering Sea crab fisheries.

    The crab program designated processor shares to the various companies based on their historical participation. The merger would offer the new company a disproportionate number of shares, mandating divestiture, which could mean shutting down processing plants in some communities.

    Fewer independent smaller seafood companies have been showing up on the Alaska scene since the 1990s. The arrival of the independents often spurred ex-vessel offers among even the major players. In recent years, however, profit margins have grown thin, leaving a handful of companies to claim the bulk of Alaska’s seafood production. Now, those companies face consolidation to survive.”


    Is this the future that we have to look forward to in the GOM? If large Japanese corporations have bought up most of the IFQ in Alaska what would stop the same thing from happening right here by some other corporation? I think the last paragraph sums it up perfectly. Here is my translation of it. Small time independent fishermen since the 1990s have been rationalized right out of the fishery by IFQ. Now large foreign companies claim the majority of Alaska’s seafood production.

    On to the last issue, number three. Environmental groups firmly planted in the NMFS are the reason behind such drastic commercial and recreational cutbacks in Total Allowable Catch. While I do believe that the environmental groups have much to do with leaning on the federal government about enforcing the revised Magnusson Stevenson Act I believe there may be more at play than just an animal rights group trying to save the fish.

    Let me paint another wild and crazy conspiracy canvas. Fish hugging group number one we will call Friendly Fish Fondlers is contacted by a large fish corporation that we will call Corporate Fish Takeover. CFT sends a very slick and forked tongued lobbyist to talk with the higher ups at FFF. CFT is very much interested in having the main fisheries of the GOM turned to IFQ so that they can buy up the majority of the GOM’s commercial catch IFQ. CFT knows that if they were to press the NMFS hard on turning the GOM into IFQ public outcry and possible scandal could be a major stumbling block on their way to their goal. CFT also knows that FFF would love to take the heat for making the NMFS adhere to the revised Magnusson Stevenson Act. FFF would then be able to tell its adoring following “look what we did, we took fisherman out of the Gulf and we reduced the fishing effort so more fish are out there.” CFT is overjoyed because now they have eliminated their competition (small individual fisherman) and have enabled total control over the GOM to be a possibility if they so please. Now why could FFF work with CFT? Well on the exterior of both organizations there will be no outward signs of mutual cooperation but because FFF did such a great thing for CFT unknowing to the public, CFT has a small sister company that employs an individual that makes a very large and generous donation to FFF every year. I think that these actions would be illegal so I’m sure it will never happen.

    Those are my thoughts. The reason why I am publishing them is to receive public input so that I might better understand how our resource is being “allocated.” If there are any participants in these groups that I have mentioned that believe I am way off in my assumptions and understanding I encourage you to rebuttal. I am still trying to educate myself.

    A plan of action

    Leadership in our recreational and (small time) commercial fishing sectors is lacking and impotent at best. Unfortunately most of the reasoning behind this is an apathy that most of our citizens have grown much to accustom to. There are organizations fighting for recreational and commercial rights but funding and support still is insufficient.

    If red grouper have not undergone over fishing according to the findings shown at the Gulf of Mexico Grouper Forum 2007, Feb 27-28, then why have not the recreational limits reverted back to five fish per day instead of one? Since millions of dollars possibly more were lost just in Florida’s economy due to unnecessary grouper season closures and bag limits than how does Dr. Roy Crabtree (Southeast regional director of NMFS) still have a job?

    We as a public should demand our recreational bag limits be reinstated were they were in July 2005 and the one month recreational and commercial seasonal closure on grouper be removed. We should also call for the resignation of Dr. Crabtree who allowed all of these offenses to the public to occur. It is time to start making the NMFS take responsibility for its own actions.

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    Good work, Ben.

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    Much to think about. Thanks Ben

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    That does paint an interesting picture Ben, apathy and the lack of a BIG central voice where all (including the business that make money off of the rec guy) get involved will be our short comings.

    You put a lot of thought in that sir. Well written.

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    thanks guys. i think this is something that we should all be aware of.

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    Ben, you are one of the few people who get it.

    Let me paraphrase:

    Magnuson-Stevens Act is being used by our government to give title to our fishery resources to large corporations at our expense.

    That's no joke. Ask commercial fishermen in the NE about it. If they want to fish, they have to work for Gorton's now. Ask recreational fishermen in the NE about it. There are some fish that they cant catch, but the big companies can.

    The last ten years of US fishery management are a nightmare for fishermen.

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    Wow, very educational, and almost depressing. Those scenarios seem not only possible, but likely. I never thought that deeply into it, but it sure does make a very reasonable, logical point. Good job and well written Ben, Thanks. Now certainly is more important than ever to fight for our fishery.

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    Ben,
    Well put and VERY interesting.
    Fred H. Shomer RIP 11/19/07

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    Nice writing Ben!! I hope some more people read this and get involved. You might want to post it in the general, gulf, eastcoast, etc. sections on Spearboard. No body over there seems to have noticed you post.

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    Very well written. Thats a lot to digest. Thanks.

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    Could you please ad a link so it is easy for anyone reading about the dilemma:
    1. Can email complaints about Dr. Crabtree to the right person.
    2. Can email demands to get our rec limits back.
    3. Can Complain to the right people about the NMFS.

    Thank You...

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    Ben you did a great job putting this together very disturbing read

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    Wow. Some interesting comments on this revived thread.....
    Last edited by TheDifference; 02-08-2011 at 02:05 PM.

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    it has come to my attention recently that EDF environmental defense fund is being funded by wal mart.

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    Scary for sure. Lack of a central voice for the little man (I say little man because this is above rec vs. commercial) is hurting us. Still can't believe the big tackle, boat, marine industry is not rallying against this. Grassroots can only do so much with limited funds.
    Still searching for that extra fish my neighbor always ask about

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishkilla View Post
    it has come to my attention recently that EDF environmental defense fund is being funded by wal mart.
    Not directly from Walmart. Funding comes from the Walton Family Foundation.

    The Walton Family Foundation

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    Sad but true...........well said Ben. The MSA is no longer worth the ink it is printed with. The real problem for us is the "Sustainable Fisheries Act". The SFA requires that once a fish is determined to be "over fished", NMFS is required (by Congress) to step in and take action to reduce or stop the harvest until the species can recover. The problem is.........the science and data collection which was used to declare the species as over fished is often pure crap. None of the fisherman believe the science & data because the method of data collection is fundamentally flawed. The fall back position of NMFS is always........"this is the best available data" and that is what we are required to use. This is what creates the conflict between NMFS and the user groups. Unless or until this "data" problem is fixed.............the fisherman are going to continue getting "the shaft".
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    kevin for some time now you've said that the recreational fisherman is going to be allowed 1 fish per species. that's starting to look like reality. our spring and summer dive trips are going to be targeting 1 hogfish, 1 snapper, 1 grouper, and 1 jack per person.

    once the reacreational "quota" is met large corporations that have bought up all the IFQ in the Gulf sell us our Grouper and Red Snapper at Wal Mart.

    i originally wrote this article and started this thread in 2007. it's sad that most of it is coming true.

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    This is the House Committee in Washington that handles Natural resources including MSA & SFA affairs. It might help to contact these representatives about your concerns as well.
    House Committee on Natural Resources

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