Social and Cultural Impact Assessment of the Highly Migratory Species Fisheries Management Plan and the Amendment to the Atlantic Billfish Fisheries Management Plan
Doug Wilson, principal investigator and corresponding
Bonnie J. McCay, co-principal investigator
The Ecopolicy Center for Agriculture, Environmental,
and Resource Issues
New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
This document is a social and cultural impact assessment of the Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for Highly Migratory Species and the current amendment to the FMP for Atlantic Billfish. It focuses on such impacts in the five states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and in Puerto Rico. These places were chosen for study because they each had important affected fisheries and because they are fairly evenly spread around the coast. For each place a profile of basic information was compiled and two communities that are likely to be affected by these FMPs were visited. In each community qualitative interviews were done with fishers, fishing crew, processors, leaders of fishing organizations, and suppliers. A total of 139 key informant interviews with either one or two people and five group interviews were done.
Regulatory impacts on these communities are traced through seven affected fisheries.
The first is the pelagic longline fishery. The basic picture of the US pelagic longline fleet and related businesses is that the best of its human and material assets are moving overseas and those that are left are increasingly marginal. This trend is being caused by many factors of which regulation is only one. The most stringent regulations of the longline fleet being considered in these plans would substantially accelerate the U.S. fleet's current decline and the movement offshore of its assets. In communities where the longline fleet is the main commercial fishery, some of the factors that are contributing to this overall decline are threatening these communities' sustained access to the resource. Aside from the artisanal fishery in Puerto Rico, the most vulnerable group described in this report is those members of the longline fleet who have not been able to participate in the global expansion of the longline business.
The second is the bluefin tuna purse seine fishery. Reduction in quota allocation and increased size limits would reduce the income of this fleet. Only if such a reduction were large would it begin to have an impact of the magnitude of price changes. Because the fleet has already adjusted to a very short season, it would continue to fish its quota unless reductions were very large. The impact of reductions in this quota on fishing communities would not be as great as reductions in other bluefin tuna fisheries. The effect on community attitudes would be significant because, unless such cuts were across-the-board cuts, many would see this as unfair.
The third is the drift gillnet swordfish fishery. Prohibition of gillnet gear for directed tuna, shark, and swordfish fishing would eliminate this fishery. Closed areas should not have a major impact as respondents report that most of the fishing is already in deeper waters. Requiring acoustic deterrents will impose costs but at a magnitude the fleet could absorb. Elimination of fishing for swordfish would lead to increased activity in fisheries that are further away leading to longer, sometime much longer, trips. The impact on the larger community of these boats doing less fishing and fishing for extended periods in distant waters would be significant.
The fourth is the recreational bluefin tuna fishery. Increased size limits for giant tuna would allocate more of the fishery to northern areas. Increased size limits for school tuna would continue and accelerate the ongoing loss of New York Bight communities' ability to use bluefin tuna to attract customers. Season opening dates are also essentially an allocation measure in this fishery. The positive impact on one community will mean a negative impact on another. The pattern of the use of restricted fishing days in the general category makes a great deal of difference in Massachusetts. Weekend openings bring in much more revenue, but there is also a decrease in safety because of crowding. The presence of more amateur boats also makes it more difficult for professional fishers to catch fish. Continuous days help fishers from farther away because it gives them more steaming and fishing time. Continuous days can mean lost revenue to businesses providing tourist services and tackle. It is very important that businesses know as far ahead of time as possible the schedule of restricted days. Increased bluefin tuna size limits will have a negative impact on the recreational fishing business in the Mid-Atlantic while having little or no effect on New England.
The fifth is the recreational shark fishery. The proposed measures would have no significant negative impact on these communities, from the perspective of the recreational industry, because they are already fishing shark more conservatively than these regulations propose. A recovery of the shark fishery would have a significant positive effect.
The sixth is the recreational billfish fishery. Most proposed recreational billfish measures are less conservative than existing fishing behavior. The main exception to this is requiring catch and release format for all tournaments. Except in South Florida, where marlin tournaments are relatively less important than sailfish tournaments, this would have a significant negative impact on participation in billfish tournaments. Aside from the catch and release tournament format, there are no negative impacts on these communities of the proposed restrictions. Recovery of the stock would have the important positive impact of allowing US billfishing destinations to once again compete with foreign billfishing destinations.
The seventh is the Puerto Rico deep water artisanal fishery. If existing restrictions on marlin size limits and sales were enforced the result would be a loss of income for an already very poor population. The new measures being considered will have no impact beyond the existing measures.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION 1
CHAPTER 2 - THE IMPACTS 6
for the National Marine Fisheries Service
Completed under contract with the United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Highly Migratory Species Office.
New Brunswick NJ, July 1998
Contributing authors: Doug Wilson, principal investigator and corresponding author; Bonnie J. McCay, co-principal investigator; Danielle Estler; Marla Perez-Lugo; Johnelle LaMarque; Sheri Seminski; and Agnes Tomczuk.
The Ecopolicy Center for Agriculture, Environmental, and Resource Issues