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Catch shares welcomed by most

The NOAA’s Fisheries Service announced Tuesday that it will implement catch shares on commercial grouper and tilefish catches in the Gulf of Mexico starting Jan. 1, 2010.

Basically, it means commercial fishermen will have a certain amount of grouper or tilefish they can catch throughout 2010, instead of observing annual quotas and trip limits that make them race to harvest fish before a closure. In the past, this has meant commercial fishermen fish in rough conditions or cause a market glut of fish during the early part of the year when the fishing is heavy.

The allocations of fish between the commercial and recreational sectors will not change, however.

“Catch share programs are useful strategies to improve the environmental and economic benefits of our nation’s fisheries,” said Dr. Roy Crabtree, southeast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service, in a NOAA news release. “I applaud the council for working closely with commercial fishermen, environmental groups and others on this significant accomplishment.”

The new quota will allow commercial fishermen to sell fish when a demand is high, and they’ll be able to fish in safe conditions.

But not all commercial fishermen have been happy with the recent changes. The quotas will be based on data of catches from 1999-2007. Capt. Ryan Rolland, from Sarasota, did not purchase his commercial fishing boat during this time. He said that was the reason he was declined for one of the 90 permits allowed to use standard longline gear. Instead, crew members on Rolland’s boat had to use “bandit” gear, or electronic reels.

“Ever since I’ve owned the boat we’ve met the quota,” Rolland said. “But since I didn’t own a permit previously to when they’re taking the data, now I can’t longline forever, unless I buy somebody else’s permit, which I think is unfair. I’ve been inspired to be a fisherman my whole life, and now they tell me I can’t be?”

Rolland said that since the longline gear was banned his catches have dropped by about 60 percent.

But that’s great for recreational anglers, who for the most part are against longline gear. The overwhelming majority of Florida fishermen are from the recreational sector, so any regulations or quotas put on the commercial sector are typically welcome from the recreational side.

It is good or bad?

Depends on if you’re a recreational or commercial fisherman.

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Nick Walter, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7013.