The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Individual Fishing Quota Program in Florida: Perceptions and Implications

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The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery began management under an individual fishing quota (IFQ) system in January 2007. The expectation is that direct ownership stakes by fishers would bring greater involvement on behalf of the boat owners and fishers and more responsible and sustainable fishing practices for a depressed fish population. Online and phone surveys of fishers involved in the Florida red snapper fishery were performed to gauge their responses to this change in management policy. In addition, red snapper prices were evaluated before and after the IFQ system. Contrary to opinions published by IFQ supporters, our survey found that most fishers disapproved of the IFQ design process overall and generally distrusted fishery management. Although the suggestion by many of the survey respondents to restrict ownership of IFQ shares strictly to active working fishers may seem extreme, such regulation may be appropriate. In addition, the available ex-vessel price data for red snapper indicate a 10 percent increase in the price that fishers receive for their catch.

La pesca de huachinango (pargo rojo) del Golfo de Mexico comenzo operaciones bajo un sistema individual de cuota pesquera (IFQ) en enero de 2007. La expectativa es que la participacion directa en la propiedad por parte de los pescadores llevaria mayor participacion por parte de los duenos de barcos y de los pescadores, asi como practicas de pesca mas responsables y sostenibles concernientes a una poblacion de peces deprimida. Encuestas en linea y por telefono a pescadores involucrados en la pesca del huachinaugo de Florida se realizaron para medir sus respuestas a este cambio en la politica de manejo. Ademas, los precios del huachinango se evaluaron antes y despues del sistema IFQ. Contrario a opiniones publicadas por los partidarios del IFQ, nuestra encuesta descubrio que la mayoria de los pescadores desaprobaron el proceso de diseno del IFQ y generalmente desconfiaron de su manejo pesquero. Aunque la sugerencia de muchos de los participantes de la encuesta para restringir la propiedad de las cuotas del IFQ a solamente los pescadores activos puede ser vista como extrema, tal regulacion puede ser apropiada. Ademas, los datos disponibles sobre los precios del muelle para el huachinaugo indican un aumento de diez por ciento en el precio que los pescadores reciben por sus pescas.

KEY WORDS: Individual Fishing Quota, Red Snapper, Gulf of Mexico, Fish Management

PALABRAS CLAVES: Cupo Individual de Pesca, Huachinango, Golfo de Mexico, Manejo Pesquero


In 1996, an Individual Fishing Quota program (IFQ) was instituted in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery and was scheduled to begin in April of that year. IFQs are methods of fishery management in which ownership of specific, guaranteed amounts of the allotted fleet-wide quota are spread among individual users. In addition, the IFQ program is a market based fisheries management system that allows the corporation as well as individuals to harvest a certain number of the total allowable catch (TAC) (Criddle and Macinko 2000; NMFS 2009a). However, in reauthorizing the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, now referred to as the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska introduced a rider to the bill, which restricted the development of any new IFQs in the United States until more research was conducted. Thus, the red snapper fishery continued operating as it had been, with more boats than necessary to harvest red snapper in an efficient manner (Keithly, Jr. 2001). In 2006, the IFQ system was finally applied to the management of the red snapper fishery.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) calls for the continuing collection of socio-economic data, in particular occupational satisfaction, including fishers' attitudes and perceptions of management, and views of their personal future in the industry (Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC) 2006). …