This chapter considers the evidence regarding positive, negative, or neutral social and economic effects from the implementation of Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs) in mixed-use fisheries for stakeholders in marine recreational fisheries. Whereas Chapter 5 considers the implications of LAPPs for stakeholders within the commercial fishery sector itself, the committee’s focus is on impacts that span the “mixed-use” gradient to influence stakeholders within the recreational sector. Importantly, like the commercial sector, the recreational sector is often composed of stakeholders with distinct interests and that may experience heterogeneous impacts from the LAPP. In most cases the recreational sector can be broken down into (1) anglers fishing from private vessels or from shore (although the latter category is of limited importance for federally managed species), (2) anglers primarily accessing the fishery as passengers onboard for-hire vessels (e.g., charter or headboat vessels), and (3) for-hire operators who provide recreational for-hire trips to paying customers. The committee’s consideration of LAPP impacts is limited to these groups; a broader assessment of the effects of LAPPs in mixed-use fisheries on coastal communities and other stakeholders is contained in Chapter 7.
Evaluating the impacts of LAPPs in mixed-use fisheries requires careful consideration of the nature of recreational and commercial fishery management in mixed-use fisheries, as well as how LAPPs have altered this management. All of the mixed-use fisheries that include LAPPs for the commercial sector and are analyzed herein have parallel management programs using output controls (seasons, bag limits, trip limits, and size regulations) for the recreational sectors. These recreational control mechanisms have had varying degrees of success in controlling recreational harvest to constrained sectoral allocations. This has entailed maintaining a longstanding regulated open access system of retention (bag) and size limits to limit the fishing mortality impacts of individual anglers, coupled with season openings and closures as the primary mechanisms to limit the cumulative fishing mortality of the recreational sector (Arlinghaus et al., 2019). In some cases (e.g., the U.S. Gulf of Mexico reef fish fisheries) this approach has been supplemented by limited
entry programs and enhanced reporting requirements for for-hire vessels. In other words, the LAPPs evaluated in this study are only “mixed use” in the sense that the fisheries stocks regulated under the LAPPs are pursued by private recreational, for-hire recreational, and commercial fishers, with all sectors falling under federal management.
An implication of this fact is that the effects of LAPPs in mixed-use fisheries on recreational participants are most likely to arise from some form of spillover between the changing terms of fishery access on the commercial side of the LAPP and the availability, access, or quality of recreational experience available to recreational anglers. Spillovers and conflicts between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors are longstanding (e.g., Berkes, 1984; Bishop and Samples, 1980), ranging from tensions over allocation of scarce harvest between sectors, perceptions of different habitat or stock impacts, competition for fishing grounds, or concerns of incompatibility between the character of coastal development favored by recreational fishers and other tourists versus commercial fishing interests. The committee is not concerned in this chapter with detailing the nature of these spillovers for each of the evaluated fisheries; indeed, interactions between recreational and commercial fisheries beyond the existence of conflict have only been sparsely addressed in the literature. Rather, the committee’s focus is on answering the following question: How have the management changes from LAPPs in the commercial sector of mixed-use fisheries changed the nature and magnitude of spillovers between the commercial sector and recreational fishery participants?
As complex social-ecological systems, the committee expects the ecological, social, and economic state variables affecting recreational stakeholders to change over time in ways that may be quite difficult to predict—even in the absence of the implementation of a LAPP. Therefore, in order to assess the impacts of a LAPP on a particular fishery, it is not sufficient to simply point to changes in these variables before and after the LAPP went into effect (i.e., the outcome of the mandated reviews). Instead, one must establish—whether empirically, through bioeconomic modeling, or through qualitative scenario construction—how these changes differ from what would have likely happened in the absence of the LAPP (Ferraro et al., 2019). In other words, any judgment about the impact of the LAPP is predicated on an implicit or explicit assumption about the “no-LAPP” counterfactual scenario. Unfortunately, the information required to rigorously evaluate these counterfactual scenarios is sorely lacking in the literature, in large part due to very sparse longitudinal social and economic data of any kind on the recreational component of the fisheries in question. Given these shortcomings, the committee instead proceeds by drawing on theory and the empirical literature on recreational-commercial spillovers to establish plausible causal pathways and mechanisms for commercially focused LAPPs to create spillovers to the recreational sector. The committee then draws on the peer-reviewed literature, Council and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) analyses, as well as insights provided to the committee by stakeholders to assess the evidence for or against these particular spillovers. The committee concludes by summarizing the overall weight of the evidence and providing suggestions for data collection and research to more rigorously evaluate these questions in the future.
THEORETICAL PATHWAYS OF IMPACT
In this section, the committee explores the potential pathways and mechanisms whereby the introduction of a LAPP in the commercial sector could potentially impact recreational stakeholders. To identify these pathways and mechanisms, the committee first draws on the small literature on recreational and commercial conflicts to identify possible pathways for impact across the sectors (whether positive or negative), even in the absence of a LAPP for the commercial sector. The committee then draws on the broader empirical literature and theory on commercial rights-based management to posit mechanisms for how the introduction of a commercial LAPP could alter the nature of this impact.
There are many possible ways to categorize the potential pathways of impact. The committee’s categorization is broken into within-season impacts—those that play out through mechanisms occurring within a season—and between-season impacts—those requiring multiple seasons to show their full impact.
One potential source of conflict between recreational and commercial fishers is the overlap of each sector’s fishing effort in space and time. This can create negative spillovers from commercial to recreational anglers (or vice versa) due to literal overlap of gear, resulting in tangled or fouled gear or a simple perception of a nuisance that mars the recreational fishing experience for some (Boucquey, 2017). Furthermore, the sequencing of recreational and commercial fishing effort within the season may result in one sector or the other obtaining a de facto privileged position in terms of the availability and catchability of their target species. This may especially be the case for fish species with strong in-season depletion effects—so that those who fish early enjoy much higher success rates than those fishing later—or species with strong seasonality in their catchability due to spawning aggregations or strong inshore-offshore migration patterns. While these sources of conflict are a possibility, there is little evidence from the literature that they are a frequent or major source of conflict in mixed-use marine fisheries.
The introduction of a commercial LAPP may alter these within-season spillovers by changing the overall amount of commercial effort as well as its temporal distribution. As noted in Chapter 5, consolidation combined with the reduction of “derby” incentives may lead to less commercial fishing effort per unit time on average, as well as a tendency for this effort to be spread over a longer season (Birkenbach et al., 2017). These outcomes are especially likely if the markets for the species in question tend to saturate, yielding lower prices as the quantity of landings increases at a given time (Birkenbach et al., 2020). This will often, but not always, result in less commercial effort at the beginning of the season, with a slower “drawdown” of stocks within the season for species with strong intraseasonal stock effects. However, it is important to note that IFQs and other LAPP-like policies have not always led to longer, less intense fishing seasons—particularly in multispecies settings (Birkenbach et al., 2020).
The result of these reallocations of commercial fishing effort under LAPPs could be either positive or negative to recreational anglers. Anglers could benefit from lower overall intensity of commercial fishing effort, and it is possible that incentives under the LAPP could shift commercial effort away from favored recreational fishing times. However, this need not be the case. For example, in the common case where recreational anglers primarily fish in the spring and summer and traditional commercial fishery seasons start with the calendar year, it is possible that the slowing of derby fishing by the LAPP could create an overlap in the recreational and commercial fishery that did not previously exist. The literature is silent on this question, both in terms of the overall tendency as well as providing any individual case studies. Nor did the committee receive any assertion of within-season impacts in the open session meetings, which included recreational stakeholders.
Many of the spillovers between commercial fishing and recreational anglers are transmitted by variables that are relatively slow to change. As a result, the effects of LAPPs may take some time to unfold.
Recreational and commercial fishers in mixed-use fisheries draw from a shared common fish stock. In most cases the Council allocations to each sector are based on a predetermined share of the biologically determined total allowable catch. In this case, any improvement in the overall stock of target species, however achieved, benefits all sectors proportionally to their allocation shares. As a result, if a LAPP leads to a change in fishing mortality, either from landed harvest or discarded catch, this can alter the harvest available to the recreational sector in future years.
Catch shares (i.e., individual fishing quotas [IFQs]) and other LAPP-like programs may affect the trajectory of fishing mortality in at least three ways, relative to the status quo management in place before the IFQ is in place (see also Chapter 4). First, commercial fishers may have an incentive under their newfound de facto “shareholder” status in the allowable catch to lobby for lower short-run catch limits in order to have a larger, ostensibly more profitable, stock and allocation in the future. Indeed, there is some empirical evidence for this claim (Branch, 2009). Second, improved monitoring and enforcement due to vessel-level accountability under catch shares often prevents overfishing of quota and also leads to larger more profitable future stocks. Third, catch shares may reduce regulatory discards, although catch shares may conversely exacerbate discards if quotas are based on landings rather than catch, and if there is little at-sea enforcement. While early studies suggested that IFQs and other catch share programs could help fisheries avoid or reverse fishery collapse (Costello et al., 2008), the subsequent literature has generally shown—both from comparisons before and after catch shares within individual fisheries and by comparisons of changes over time with paired non–catch share fisheries—that catch share fisheries are less likely to be overfished after the management change, but have not improved biomass in most cases that sought to increase stock size (Essington, 2010; Essington et al., 2012). However, there is evidence that catches are better able to track quotas under catch shares, leading to better achievement of management targets and reduced variability from year to year (Essington, 2010; Melnychuk et al., 2012). There is also evidence that catch shares have reduced discard rates in some North American fisheries (Essington, 2010).
Given these results, the committee expects that imposing a commercial LAPP may confer some benefits to recreational anglers if one or more of the following occur: (1) the LAPP leads to fewer commercial overfishing events and less variability in achieving management targets, (2) the LAPP secures greater cooperation from commercial fishers for stock rebuilding activities (when rebuilding is required), or (3) the LAPP reduces regulatory discards. In these cases, recreational anglers will be partial beneficiaries of improved or more stable stocks. The extent of potential benefits depends heavily on the counterfactual management. If the pre-LAPP management was able to maintain stocks at roughly the same target levels as under the LAPP, then anglers may see few spillover benefits through the stock. Indeed, if a LAPP were to induce a net increase in discards, and the discards are not specifically debited from the commercial sector, then the recreational sector may find its overall allocation diminished by the LAPP.
The determination of the share of the total landings or fishing mortality allocated to the commercial versus recreational sector has been the most frequent source of conflict between recreational and commercial fisheries, both in the United States (Abbott, 2015) and internationally (Borch, 2010; Crowe et al., 2013; Kearney, 2001, 2002). In the United States alone, the Councils have faced several hotly contested reallocation decisions in recent years, often requiring substantial investments in research to help support decision making (Agar and Carter, 2014; Agar et al., 2014; Gentner et al., 2010).
All of the LAPPs reviewed in this report have altered the management of the commercial sector, holding constant the preexisting allocation between the recreational and commercial sectors. There is, therefore, no direct link between the adoption of LAPPs in these mixed-use fisheries and any subsequent change (or lack of change) in the allocation between recreational and commercial stakeholders. However, many recreational stakeholders argue that the creation of a commercial LAPP in a mixed-use fishery effectively creates a de facto right that may be more difficult for the Councils to adjust than under the previous terms of management. This inertia may be facilitated by the LAPP’s effect in increasing the political power and organization of the commercial sector; this organization is created in part through the articulation of specific goals and objectives of the LAPP, which are not discussed systematically for the recreational sector. Both ongoing participants in the commercial fishery and those planning to sell or lease their quota shares in future seasons have an incentive to maintain the value of their allocations. This economic common interest, combined with the consolidation of quota share among fewer, more efficient operators that occurs in some LAPPs, may increase the benefits and lower the costs of quota owners of engaging in collective action to defend the value of their total allocation “pie” by resisting reallocation of quota to recreation, or perhaps even expanding the commercial allocation at the cost of the recreational sector. Therefore, LAPPs may indirectly strengthen the allocation claims of the commercial sector through a political feedback loop.
Evidence for or against these claims is lacking in the literature and is by its nature difficult to formally evaluate. Nevertheless, it is the case that catch shares have typically been accompanied by the formation or strengthening of industry groups of quota holders that, in addition to providing a variety of valuable services to their members in terms of marketing, research, brokerage, and so on, also serve as strong advocates for shareholder interests to the Councils and at the national level (Pinkerton, 2014). It therefore seems plausible to assume that the bargaining position of the commercial sector in terms of maintaining its allocation has tended to improve under LAPPs. However, this finding must be placed in appropriate context in that recreational anglers’ interests in many marine fisheries have long been aggressively pursued in the United States, at both the state and federal levels, by well-funded angler associations such as the Coastal Conservation Association and the International Game Fish Association. These organizations have a strength of influence at both the state and federal levels in the United States that often exceeds that in many other industrialized nations (cf. Kearney, 2001), although that influence is stronger in particular regions and fisheries (e.g., nearshore and reef fish fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico) than others. Indeed, these organizations have been instrumental in the designation of some nearshore species (e.g., red drum) as “gamefish”—essentially allocating 100% of the catch to recreational users. Therefore, while commercial LAPPs are very likely to enhance the political bargaining power of quota owners, it does not follow that this necessarily creates an asymmetry in any contentions over fishery allocations. Indeed, in some cases, the result may be something closer to a restoration of parity between sectors. The committee separately evaluates the evidence for indirect allocation spillovers for each fishery below.
One possible consequence of a commercial LAPP is that some vessels that exit the commercial fishery due to the LAPP may choose to refit their boats as for-hire recreational vessels. There is very little assessment of this possibility in the literature; however, the only study to examine former fishers’ employment after exiting fishing found that only 6% entered charter fishing (Stewart et al., 2006). Furthermore, the ability of commercial fishers to enter the for-hire sector depends on the nature of the rules of access. In the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, both charter and headboat vessels must
possess a limited entry permit, thereby requiring that any new entrants obtain a permit from a current permit holder, limiting the scope for new effort to enter the fishery.
One other pathway for commercial effort to bleed into the recreational sector that was noted during the open meetings is the creation of quasi-recreational “catch share experience” or “dude fishing” trips whereby a commercial vessel fishing under IFQ takes on customers that work as crew members, paying for the trip in an indirect sense by purchasing their catch from the dealer after landing it at a rate above the normal ex-vessel price. This has only been reported in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fisheries, so the committee discusses it below for that case.
EVIDENCE OF IMPACTS FOR INDIVIDUAL FISHERIES
Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper and Grouper-Tilefish
The committee considers the red snapper and grouper-tilefish LAPPs together because many of the commercial vessels participate in both programs and because many recreational fishers catch species that are also commercially caught under both LAPPs as well as a number of reef fish not covered under either LAPP.
While the commercial and recreational sectors share common fishing grounds, there is little evidence from published literature, Council documents, or the open sessions with representatives from all sectors of significant physical overlap or congestion between recreational and commercial vessels or gear in the Gulf reef fish fisheries. Nor has the committee seen allegations of, or found evidence for, significant “stock effects,” whereby the harvest of one sector asymmetrically reduces the catch of another. Given the finding from the 5-year reviews that both LAPPs have reduced the number of active vessels in the fishery (Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, 2013, 2018a), it is possible that the LAPPs could have reduced interference or competition between commercial and recreational anglers. However, it is controversial whether the LAPPs themselves caused much of the capacity reductions; quota reductions associated with the LAPPs combined with external economic factors may have played a dominant role instead (Agar et al., 2014). The LAPPs, particularly the red snapper IFQ, did serve to spread commercial fishing effort much more smoothly across the year from far more compressed spring and fall derby seasons (Agar et al., 2014; Birkenbach et al., 2017). In principle this could have resulted in more overlap of recreational and commercial effort than before the LAPPs, because Gulf of Mexico recreational effort is generally at its highest in the late spring and summer. However, the committee found no investigation of the potential impacts of this overlap for either sector, nor did representatives from either sector mention this overlap in the open session meetings. Therefore, given the current state of evidence, the committee’s assessment is that the two reef fish LAPPs have had minimal to no impact on the recreational sector in terms of within-season impacts.
Regarding between-season impacts, there could be positive benefits to private and for-hire anglers and owners (holding constant the overall allocations between sectors) if the commercial LAPPs facilitated the rebuilding of target stocks or prevented the overharvest of commercial allocations relative to counterfactual management—thus making more harvest available to recreational stakeholders. While some species affected by the LAPPs, most notably red snapper, have experienced significant rebuilding since their implementation, it is unlikely that the vast majority of these gains are attributable to the LAPPs per se. The individual accountability and extra monitoring provisions of the LAPPs have reduced the challenge of meeting management targets—reducing the variability of harvest relative to allocation for the commercial sector and maintaining harvest below the allocation in every year since LAPPs were instituted. Nonetheless, reported commercial harvest did not systematically exceed its allocation in the years immediately prior to the LAPPs, suggesting that the incremental effects of the LAPPs on stock status are minor (see Figure 6.1).
In the case of red snapper, a significant cause of recent stock rebounds was likely the large reductions in commercial allocations (and harvest) implemented in the mid- and late 2000s. As well, following hurricane Katrina in 2005 there was a significant reduction of shrimp fishing effort and a concomitant reduction in red snapper bycatch from this fleet. Although these reductions were implemented simultaneously with the red snapper IFQ, they were part of a broad-based effort to hasten the rebuilding of the stock beginning in 2005 (NOAA Fisheries, 2020). The IFQ was a means to facilitate commercial harvest under the reduced allocations, but the reduced allocations would likely have occurred regardless of the IFQ program. The recreational sector saw its own red snapper allocations similarly reduced at the same time, facing drastically reduced season lengths and bag limits, as well (see Figure 6.2), thus showing that the reductions in commercial quota imposed under the IFQ were part of a separate, broad-based reduction in fishing mortality by the Council for all sectors and not attributable to the LAPP itself (NOAA Fisheries, 2020). On balance, it seems unlikely that the commercial LAPPs alone have contributed significant spillover benefits in terms of stock recovery to recreational stakeholders.
Conflicts over allocation of reef fish between recreational and commercial sectors, and to a lesser extent between private and for-hire recreational sectors, are very heated in the Gulf of Mexico. This is particularly the case for red snapper (Abbott, 2015). Despite a stable allocation, recreational anglers have seen the lengths of their federal fishing seasons (and the individual bag limits) plummet since the mid-2000s (see Figure 6.2). This development was driven by a combination of recreational effort flooding into the fishery, which is expected as entry is unrestricted and fishing popularity grows, but also in response to successful stock rebuilding, reductions in federal seasons to compensate for unilateral noncompliant seasons in state waters, and increasing average
weights of harvest (so that fewer fish can be harvested under biomass based quotas).1 The fact that these developments occurred at the same time that the commercial season became effectively year round under LAPPs (see Figure 6.1) has fueled pressure from the recreational sector for a greater allocation in order to afford more fishing opportunities. The optics of the diametrically opposed trends in available fishing days has fueled accusations of differential treatment between the commercial and recreational sectors, despite the fact that commercial allocations were rarely exceeded while recreational catches often exceeded allocations by 50% or more, especially after the adoption of the red snapper LAPP (see Figure 6.1).
The commercial sector has pointed to these quota overages by recreational anglers to argue that additional allocations to recreation, at the cost of commercial fishers, are against the interests of conservation. Thus, commercial LAPPs for Gulf of Mexico red snapper have likely increased political pressure on the recreational sector for accountability for its harvest, albeit at the cost of refueling longstanding acrimony between the sectors. Pressure has especially increased on the portion of the recreational sector fishing from private vessels due to recent changes in governance. The division of the recreational allocation between the for-hire and private angler sectors under “sector separation” (Amendment 40) has provided the for-hire sector some relief from short seasons as operators no longer must compete with private anglers for their share of the harvest (see Figure 6.2). The for-hire sector has since remained well within its separate allocation (see Figure 6.1), and an experimental program in 2014-2015 for the headboat portion of this sector further demonstrated
1It is important to note that the recreational fishery is simultaneously managed within state waters by a consortium of states that have developed a more liberal harvest policy than the federal management scheme, and which is resulting in catch overages for the recreational private vessel sector, in particular.
that a for-hire LAPP can result in increased fishing opportunities, higher profits for headboat operators, and stronger accountability for harvests (Abbott and Willard, 2017). These developments have almost certainly increased the focus of the commercial sector on ensuring collective accountability from private recreational anglers.
The overwhelming majority of comments presented in open sessions concerning sources of recreational and commercial conflict with stakeholders from this region concerned the equity of the current allocation and whether alternative allocations might be justifiable on economic and equity grounds. The question, given the charge of the committee, is not whether the current, or alternative, allocations are justifiable or not, but rather whether the implementation of the two reef fish LAPPs has served to alter the trajectory of these allocations compared to a world in which the LAPPs were not put into place, but where concerns regarding rebuilding stocks and other management goals were still addressed through alternative policy measures. There is no scientific basis on which to predict how allocations might have evolved in this counterfactual situation. However, it is noteworthy that relative sectoral allocations have remained unchanged since the implementation of IFQs.2 Amendment 28, which was strongly supported by recreational fishing interests, would have reallocated 2.5% of red snapper harvest away from the commercial sector and toward the recreational sector. This allocation basically formalized the de facto allocation that had been in place in previous years due to the private recreational sector’s overharvest in excess of its allocation—an overharvest that was discovered upon recalibration of the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) to improve its sampling in time periods it had previously missed. However, a federal court later vacated the amendment, providing the following argument:
Amendment 28 enables the recreational sector to catch more fish in the future because they caught more fish in the past, in excess of applicable restrictions. AR 020353 (“During the period when the recreational harvest was managed as a quota (1997–2012), actual recreational harvest in pounds of red snapper exceeded the quota in 9 out of 16 years, including 5 of the last 6 years.”). Consequently, Defendants create a system in which one sector must demonstrate an increase in landings in excess of their quota in order to obtain an increase in their allocation. The flaw with that system is that the commercial sector can never obtain an increase in their allocation because the commercial sector can never exceed their quota due to the IFQ program. AR 020354 (“[T]he IFQ program has ended quota overruns.”). Amendment 28 therefore places the commercial sector at a permanent disadvantage by failing to take into account the IFQ program and its impact on reallocation. The Court cannot deem such a scenario fair and equitable as required by National Standard Four.3
The fact that the commercial sector was governed by IFQ—and therefore was viewed as accountable as a sector for its catch in a way that the recreational sector is not—was an important factor in the court’s decision to vacate the Council’s attempted reallocation of red snapper harvest to the recreational sector. Therefore, while Amendment 28 may have faced a similar fate even if the commercial sector had not been governed by an IFQ, the presence of the LAPP strengthened the legal argument. It is therefore possible that the recreational sector has seen their de facto allocation of red snapper reduced (although their formal allocation has remained unchanged) as an indirect result of the commercial LAPP. However, the committee wishes to emphasize the indirect nature of this inference.
Regarding effort spillovers from the commercial fishery to the recreational sector, the presence of limited licensing for charter and headboat vessels in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that this spillover
2In the case of red snapper, commercial has 51% of harvest, while recreation has 49%. In 2015, the Gulf Council implemented “sector separation,” so that the recreational quota was subdivided between the for-hire and private recreational sectors.
3Guindon v. Pritzker, 240 F.Supp. 3d 181, 195 (D.D.C. 2017).
is blocked in that new entrants must retire an existing permit. It is possible that some commercial fishers left the region and opened for-hire operations in other regions, but data are lacking to assess this possibility. With regard to “catch share experience trips,” the committee’s research suggests at least two companies operating out of Galveston, Texas, offer full-day catch share experience trips in which anglers pay the equivalent of $16.00-$18.00/pound for 100-200 pounds of red snapper and other reef fish catch—significantly more than the commercial ex-vessel price. However, such trips have only been documented for the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery and have only been offered for a small handful of trips (Stephen, 2020). While these trips are intriguing as a creative, yet apparently legal, example of how an ostensibly commercial LAPP can nevertheless cater to recreational anglers—in the absence of a mechanism to directly move quota between the sectors—the small scale and limited demand for these trips suggest that they are a relatively minor concern at present.
In summary, the committee finds minimal evidence for any spillovers, negative or positive, from the creation of commercial LAPPs for red snapper and grouper and tilefish in the Gulf of Mexico to recreational stakeholders. To the extent that there has been any negative effect on the recreational sector, it has occurred indirectly through the existence of the IFQs serving to enhance the legal and political validity of the commercial sector’s claim to its allocation. Most importantly, irrespective of the existence of a LAPP for the commercial sector, the most important consideration in developing a management program is that it can reliably result in catches not exceeding allocations consistent with achieving, on a continuing basis, the maximum fishing mortality rate targets and limits for the stock. In the case of red snapper for the Gulf of Mexico, this is apparently true for the commercial and for-hire sectors and not true for the private, recreational sectors.
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
The individual bluefin quota (IBQ) program for Atlantic bluefin creates a very narrowly defined LAPP, providing transferable short-run quotas to limit and allocate the bycatch of bluefin, particularly regulatory discards, for the pelagic highly migratory species longline fleet. It does not create a LAPP for any other recreational or commercial retention of the species except for an individually assigned allocation to the small and inactive purse seine fleet, which can trade with the pelagic longliners. Therefore, the scope for impacts to the private and charter recreational sectors is relatively narrow.
The longline fleet is far more southerly in terms of the orientation of its fishing grounds than the recreational, charter, and targeted commercial bluefin fisheries. Indeed, open meetings with NMFS personnel and industry representatives confirmed that the pelagic longline fleet has very little overlap in terms of its grounds, to the point that many fishers in the other sectors are not even aware of its existence. The committee therefore posits that there are no direct, within-season impacts of the IBQ on recreational anglers or charter vessel owners.
With regard to between-season impacts, there is some potential that the IBQ may have created conditions whereby recreational anglers could enjoy a larger total quota in the future. The mechanism is as follows. Prior to the IBQ, the pelagic longline fleet regularly exceeded its bluefin allocation due to dead discards. In order to remain within the overall U.S. quota from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas for bluefin mortality, NMFS had to cover these overages with underutilized quota from other categories, primarily from the purse seine fleet. However, since the implementation of the IBQ, the longline fleet has remained well under (often less than 50%) its overall quota allocation. While broader contextual factors may have caused some of this reduction, both the 3-year program review (NOAA Fisheries, 2019) and representatives from the pelagic longline fleet in the open meetings confirm that incentives for bycatch avoidance under the IBQ are partially responsible. As a result, NMFS no longer must cover overages from underutilized quota categories. This has created the possibility for a reallocation of
the purse seine category’s quota to other sectors, including private and charter recreational anglers, even though some of it is currently leased to the pelagic longline sector to facilitate the market in IBQ for those who need to lease some, because of the practice of holding IBQ as insurance against possible bycatch (Thomas Warren, personal communication, 2021). This reallocation is currently under consideration as Amendment 13 under the highly migratory species management plan; the version out for public hearings as of June 10, 2021, includes disbanding the purse seine sector and reallocating its share of the bluefin quota.
South Atlantic Wreckfish
As described previously, the recreational component of the wreckfish fishery is very small. While social media postings of recreational wreckfish harvest do occasionally occur, the MRIP recorded only one recreational wreckfish landing between 2009 and 2016 (Stephen, 2020). This low observation is driven in large part by the difficulty and cost of harvesting wreckfish given its distance from shore, depth of habitat, and the essentially single-species nature of the fishery. The allocation of 5% of the annual catch limits to recreational harvest in 2011 was designed primarily to accommodate any bycatch in the recreational snapper-grouper fishery, legalizing retention that was previously prohibited by those lacking a commercial permit. The committee’s conclusion, therefore, is that the recreational wreckfish fishery—to the extent one exists—is primarily limited by natural factors that curtail wreckfish’s attractiveness as a game fish, with the IFQ system having essentially no additional effect.
Mid-Atlantic Golden Tilefish
The nature of the golden tilefish fishery, governed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, combined with the information gathered from commercial and recreational participants during the open sessions suggest that there is essentially no within-season conflicts between recreational and commercial harvesters in terms of gear fouling, spatial/temporal overlap, or depletion effects by one sector on another. Both the recreational and commercial effort levels are small and spread over a very large area. Since the IFQ was implemented, the number of active commercial participants and effort has declined slightly (MAFMC, 2017). However, given the question of whether these declines were caused by the IFQ versus other contemporaneous factors, and considering that there was little evidence of interaction between the sectors before the IFQ, the committee expects this has had minimal effect on the recreational sector. Therefore, there is no evidence that the LAPP had any appreciable within-season impacts on recreational stakeholders.
With regard to between-season spillovers through the stock, the 5-year review notes that stock assessments, although highly uncertain due to a paucity of fishery-independent data, indicate that biomass has generally grown since the implementation of the IFQ (MAFMC, 2017). However, most of the improvements in catch per unit effort and the recovery of the stock were achieved before Amendment 1 created the IFQ program, suggesting that the constant quota rule and accountability measures established under the 2001 Fishery Management Plan were largely responsible for these gains, not the addition of the LAPP provisions. It is therefore unlikely that the recreational sector has seen increases in stock status (and therefore improved catch rates) that can be specifically tied to the LAPP itself.
With regard to allocation spillovers, the recreational sector operates under open access without any explicit allocation. The recreational sector therefore faces no explicit limit on its catch due to the LAPP. However, while estimates of recreational golden tilefish effort and catch are highly uncertain, there has been increasing concern at the Council level that recreational effort for this species is increasing due to its rebuilt biomass, open access management, and increased restrictions
on other recreational target species in the region. In order to enhance data collection and establish some baseline regulations, the amendment creating the LAPP also created some new restrictions for the recreational sector. These included the creation of a new open access permit and trip reporting guidelines for charter vessels as well as establishing an eight-fish bag limit (for the first time) for private and charter anglers. These requirements are likely to have fairly minimal impact as charter operators already are required to have permits and adhere to trip reporting requirements for the other species (e.g., highly migratory species) they target. Furthermore, the bag limit was set to a level that was unlikely to bind for the vast majority of anglers (MAFMC, 2017). Subsequent restrictions were enacted in 2018 including limiting recreational anglers to hook-and-line gear with five or fewer hooks, requiring open access tilefish permits, and trip reporting for private anglers targeting and retaining golden tilefish; the latter changes essentially harmonize the reporting requirements for private and charter recreational vessels.
Overall, the new restrictions on recreational fishing are mostly driven by the need to better understand the magnitude of recreational effort and catch and are likely driven as much by concerns about the apparent increase in recreational effort and landings on the resurgence of the stock as by the institution of the IFQ itself. Furthermore, these measures place no significant bound on recreational effort or catch in the fishery, with the bag limits and gear restrictions primarily serving to preserve the recreational character of the fishery rather than limit the catch of recreational anglers. It is therefore unlikely that the golden tilefish IFQ itself has resulted in any significant newfound restrictions on access or the recreational fishing experience for private or charter recreational anglers beyond those required to effectively monitor recreational effort and harvest.
As repeatedly noted above, there has been very little research focusing on spillovers between commercial LAPPs and the broader suite of catch share management approaches and their effects on recreational stakeholders. Indeed, even the mandatory program review documents for each of the LAPPs considered ignore this set of questions, likely because such concerns lie outside the stated goals and objectives of the LAPP and therefore are not the focus of reviews that are intended to “describe and analyze the effects that have actually taken place since the ‘baseline’ time period prior to … the program’s implementation” (Morrison, 2017b).
Given this research gap, the committee attempted, first, to identify pathways and mechanisms whereby it is possible that a commercial LAPP may affect recreational stakeholders and, second, to assess the case for the salience of these theoretical impacts in the particular cases in question. The committee’s findings can be summarized as follows.
First, while direct, within-season impacts of commercial LAPPs on recreational anglers that work through changing the intensity and spatiotemporal effort and harvest patterns of commercial harvesters are certainly possible, the committee found no substantial evidence of these effects, either positive or negative, in the mixed-use fishery LAPPs examined under this study. This finding is likely simply a product of the coincidence that there is very little evidence for significant within-season interactions between the recreational and commercial fleets in any of these fisheries. Therefore, there was very little opportunity for LAPPs to create a spillover through these interactions. It is possible that in other fisheries with different characteristics, such as those with highly spatially and temporally concentrated resource abundance and strong in-season stock effects (e.g., anadromous fisheries), there is greater potential for spillover.
Second, with regard to indirect, between-season effects of commercial LAPPs that work through the stock itself, the committee found no convincing evidence that the LAPPs in question have contributed additional catch opportunities for recreational anglers. There is no evidence that any of the IFQs contributed to faster resource recovery and biomass growth relative to what would
likely have occurred in their absence. Nevertheless, IFQs likely did facilitate and improve the cost effectiveness of resource recovery in at least one instance—the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery—by helping make significant cuts to commercial quota allocations politically feasible to the commercial sector. Importantly, there is also no evidence that any of the LAPPs the committee reviewed created negative feedbacks to the stock in a way that would harm recreational stakeholders other than the fact that by exceeding the recreational allocation (and thereby increasing fishing mortality) those overages may have retarded the pace of stock rebuilding in red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.
Third, there is some evidence in at least two of the cases—the Gulf of Mexico red snapper IFQ and the IBQ for Atlantic bluefin fisheries—that commercial LAPPs may impact recreational stakeholders through indirect effects on the size of the recreational allocation itself. The creation of a commercial LAPP may strengthen the political bargaining power of the commercial sector or, as seen in the Gulf of Mexico, buttress the legal argument for protecting the commercial sector’s allocation. This can introduce additional inertia in regulatory reallocation processes and perhaps block or delay reallocations from commercial fisheries to recreational fisheries that may be viewed as desirable from a management perspective. However, the committee must warn that this outcome is highly contingent on the political economy and legal considerations at play in a given situation and should not be treated as generalizable. Furthermore, it does not follow that such inertia is always a bad thing in an adversarial, co-management setting such as that seen in the U.S. Council system. Indeed, it may improve the overall parity of the bargaining position on either side of an allocation decision, helping to prevent unwise reallocations that may impose an undue burden on one party for the benefit of another, and potentially even fostering experimentation toward “win-win” solutions. The Gulf of Alaska guided angler fish program is a good example whereby charter operators were allowed to lease quota from commercial halibut harvesters (Kroetz et al., 2019a). Finally, the Atlantic bluefin tuna IBQ also shows that LAPPs may also create positive spillovers to recreational fisheries through the allocation mechanism—particularly if the incentives in the LAPP are used to reduce bycatch in one sector in order to facilitate greater targeted fishing in another.
The overall evidence for policy-relevant spillovers between commercial LAPPs and the recreational sector in existing U.S. mixed-use fisheries is weak. The spillovers that the committee was able to identify primarily operate through the indirect mechanism of the recreational-commercial allocation. These spillovers are ambiguous in terms of their impact on the recreational sector, and also highly contingent on the political and legal context. The lack of consistent, strong effects of commercial LAPPs on recreational stakeholders is perhaps not surprising given that all of the mixed-use fishery LAPPs were designed to address management challenges within the commercial sector while leaving the situation within the recreational sector unchanged. Nevertheless, the committee’s analysis of theoretical pathways of impact suggests that significant spillovers are possible and should be considered in the design of any new LAPPs in mixed-use fisheries. Furthermore, the Councils and NOAA Fisheries should consider these factors as they consider the criteria to evaluate in their mandatory program reviews. This will require careful consideration of the goals and objectives of the recreational sector and the associated need to gather longitudinal data on the recreational sector both before and after these new programs come into place.
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