How do advocates of reserving significant portions of a common property resource for exclusive
use by just one group of fishermen prevail over advocates for other groups of fishermen? A
premise long associated in allocating finite (non-renewable) coastal property for the highest and
best use (real estate) is now being applied to (renewable) coastal fishery resources.
For at least the last four decades, examining how many fish have been caught by recreational
fishermen and how many have been caught by commercial fishermen has become a common
study approach. Consequently, emphasis on allocation management has narrowly focused public
attention on different fishing practices while deemphasizing other circumstances which influence
“sustainability” of harvestable marine fishes.
Attached are two additional reports which DSB previously supplied Bob Jones after attending
various fishery management conferences. They support a conclusion that State agencies in the
southeast have abdicated some responsibilities to act as stewards of many commonly held marine
fishery resources shared by all fishermen. Erosion of that responsibility has been exacerbated by
Federal natural resource management jurisdiction was historically restricted to species occupying
federal lands (parks or wildlife refuges); expressly designated by Congressional action such as
endangered or threatened species; or to migratory species crossing international boundaries.
However, during formation of Regional Fishery Management Councils, an effort was made to
determine and measure the relative harvest by recreational fishermen, and to include that data
with the commercial landings already being monitored by the Commerce Department. The
quality of such recreational harvest information remains questionable and very costly to collect.
Passage of the Magnuson Act inadvertently expanded Congressional authority to include Federal
jurisdiction over marine fish and crustaceans not confined exclusively to State territorial waters.
Consequently, decades of experience demonstrate that consolidated jurisdiction guiding
centralized management of diversified common property resources may have failed to provide
the best stewardship. We believe it was a result of adopting multiple broad-based management
plans which did not reflect the diversity of fisheries within regional ecosystems containing
differing fish stocks harvested in regionally unique manners. Allocation management reflects
one size fits all, which is politically popular, but does not fairly serve all; perhaps wasting, rather
than conserving, valuable resources.
Sequestering funding for competing research from what is needed to understand how many
marine fish stocks may be used in a sustainable manner worsens the situation.
Many state agencies conduct work to monitor commercial and recreational “landings” (tasks
previously conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service) with less attention paid to
learning about other biological/environmental circumstances.
For example, research into how the multitude of unique regional fisheries are impacting various
aspects of an exploited species’ life history; or how each fishery is being conducted within
different ecosystems (wide or narrow coastal shelf regions); or in the proximity to (or distance
from) prevailing ocean currents. Thus, the respective fishing power and relative impact of each
individual fishery (for instance red snapper) has long been misunderstood.
This is because requisite funding to conduct such work has focused predominately upon
monitoring the relative number of fish caught through recreational or commercial effort.
Likewise, federal exploratory fishing surveys may have been poorly designed, employing
ineffective methods, and thus could have failed to emulate commercial fishing practices within
many different fisheries.
Such results remain a dominate problem for sound resource stewardship until relative
State/Federal methodologies are reassessed and modified to better reflect regional differences
between stocks and their respective fisheries.
Dale Beaumariage is retired from serving in both state and federal resource management agencies and
now lives in Golden, CO. He shares an interest with John Jolley in being able to enjoy eating domestic
seafood at home or during frequent travel in Florida.
John Jolley is a 50-year member of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, and its former president. He lives
in Boynton Beach, FL. Both scientists worked for the Florida Department of Natural Resources in the
1970’s and have been actively engaged with the two Regional Fishery Management Councils to which
Florida is a member.
Dale S. Beaumariage and John W. Jolley