Berkley Conservation Institute

New Report Demonstrates Potential Economic Gains from Reallocations

Recreational landings produce greater economic returns than commercial landings

A report released today further demonstrates the importance of reviewing how the nation's marine fisheries are allocated between the recreational and commercial sectors.

The report, "The Economic Gains from Reallocating Specific Saltwater Fisheries," produced by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and Southwick Associates, was introduced at the American Boating Congress, an annual legislative conference co-hosted by organizations from all segments of the boating and fishing industries. This annual event brings hundreds of leaders to Washington D.C. to formulate public policy and present a unified front on issues that impact marine businesses.

The report uses economic contributions estimates and the few fisheries valuation studies available in three mixed sector fisheries to examine the potential gains to be made by increasing the recreational allocation for specific species.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Summer Flounder in the Mid-Atlantic: Recreational angler spending supported up to 25,450 jobs in 2011, compared to up to 4,665 jobs supported by commercial production.
  • Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico: Recreational fishing for red snapper contributes approximately four times more to the nation's gross domestic product than commercial harvests.
  • Pacific Halibut from California to Washington: Recreational fishing for halibut provides nearly five times more jobs per pound harvested when compared to commercial harvests.

"This report demonstrates how allocating larger shares of specific fisheries to the recreational sector can increase economic activity to the overall benefit to the nation," said Scott Gudes, ASA's vice president for Government Affairs. "This isn't meant to be a comprehensive analysis into these fisheries, but rather an examination based on available data. Further studies are needed, but these preliminary results are very compelling and demand at least a discussion on how our nation's fisheries should be allocated."

Despite the tremendous importance that allocation decisions have in maximizing the benefits that our fisheries provide to the nation, federal fisheries managers have not revisited allocations – most of which were determined decades ago – primarily because of a lack of clear guidance on how decisions should be made and because these decisions are inherently difficult.

On April 30, during the House of Representatives markup hearing on a bill sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), H.R. 1335, to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, an important amendment was offered by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) that would require the development of guidelines for consideration in allocation decisions and a periodic review of allocations in fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

"This report further reinforces the importance of Congressman Duncan's amendment, which will provide a science-based path forward for examination of allocations," said Mike Leonard, ASA's Ocean Resource Policy director. "ASA is grateful for Congressman Duncan's leadership on behalf of the nation's 11 million saltwater anglers and the 450,000 jobs they support."

"Obviously there are many factors that need to be considered when determining allocations, and economic value is one of those key factors," continued Leonard. "It is our hope that this report helps facilitate discussion and examination into the factors that need to go into these important decisions."