The Southeast sustained tens of millions of dollars in economic losses during a five-year period because years of overfishing depleted species and led to fewer recreational fishing trips, according to an analysis commissioned by the Pew Environment Group.
The study, conducted by the nonprofit consulting firm Ecotrust, examined the impact of overfishing from 2005 to 2009 on nine severely depleted species, including black sea bass and red snapper, in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, respectively.
The biggest loss in direct expenditures—nearly $53 million a year on average—came from fewer fishing trips to catch South Atlantic black sea bass. The figure represents money that was not spent on items such as boat rentals, charter fees, tackle, bait, fuel, and other businesses directly dependent on anglers targeting this species. When looking at the broader economy, including spending at hotels, restaurants, wholesale suppliers, and other downstream businesses, the region had a total estimated loss of $138 million because of fewer trips for black sea bass alone.
“Overfishing—catching fish faster than they can reproduce—leaves a costly legacy that hurts our communities and fishermen,” said Lee Crockett, Pew's Director of U.S. Fisheries Campaigns.
Recreational anglers are suffering the consequences of the nation's failure to wisely manage our fish resources.Lee Crockett
"The Ecotrust study makes a strong economic case for the laws we have today that require science-based annual catch limits to end and prevent overfishing. These limits could help deliver robust fish populations, create jobs, and put money back into our coastal communities.”
In the Gulf, where red snapper are at only 17.5 percent of a safe population level, direct spending losses amounted to an average of $13 million annually because of fewer fishing trips targeting that species. When looking at the broader economy, this loss increased to $33 million. In the South Atlantic from Florida to North Carolina, where red snapper have declined to 12.5 percent of a safe level, the total economic loss was $42 million on average per year.
“Red snapper has needed a lot of help to recover, and it's been a tough road, but the financial payoff is clear,” said Holly Binns, Director, Southeast and U.S. Caribbean Fish Conservation Campaign. “Science-based catch limits appear to be working and will return this commercially important species to abundance. In the Gulf, red snapper are showing strong signs of rebounding, thanks to catch limits implemented in 2007. In the South Atlantic, they have been in critical condition but may be stabilizing, due to catch limits implemented in 2010.”
Overfishing has depleted nearly 20 percent of the nation's commercially and recreationally important ocean fish, including some species of tuna, cod, flounder, snapper, and grouper. Restoring fish populations helps anglers, boosts commercial fisheries, and improves the health of the region's ecosystems, which draw fishermen, divers, and tourists from around the world.
“Overfishing has made it significantly tougher for me to make a living,” said Captain Bill Taylor, owner-operator of Black Dog Charters of Jupiter, Fla. “Our local tourist economy can only benefit from staying the course of rebuilding fish populations.”
“These findings demonstrate the economic importance of recreational fishing to our economy and underscore the costly legacy of inadequate management that drove many popular recreational species to unsustainably low levels,” said Kristen Sheeran, one of the Ecotrust report authors.
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wild lands, and promote clean energy. www.PewEnvironment.org
For more than 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $80 million in grants into more than $500 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. Ecotrust's many innovations include co-founding the world's first environmental bank, starting the world's first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries, forestry, food, farms, and indigenous affairs, and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic, and environmental decision making. Ecotrust works locally in ways that promise hope abroad, and it honors and supports the wisdom of Native and First Nation leadership in its work. www.ecotrust.org