Highly Migratory Species Report

by John T. Koegler

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 1998 Newsletter)


VIMS Survey Proves Offshore Angler’s Annual Spending is Huge

Estimation of Northeast Offshore Angler Spending

Are there enough tuna left to support both angler and commercials offshore?

Anglers spending support a huge number of businesses plus the jobs these businesses provide. WE anglers spent Thirty seven billion dollars in 1996. Eight Billion six hundred seventy four million dollars was spent on saltwater fishing. Nationwide 1,210,093 jobs were created. 287,707 of these jobs were supported saltwater anglers spending, alone.

It has often been said that if you follow the money trail, you will find the reason why decision is made in government. Recently, after many years of delay a number of reports have been published that addresses " the economic importance of recreational fishing." The new 1996 USF&G sportfishing economic survey, for the first time, breaks out saltwater spending data for each coastal state. This new survey provides fisheries managers with a valuable tool to aid their fish allocation decisions. Angler spending and economic output is so huge a dollar number it must be considered in allocations and quota setting. The USF&G survey proves anglers spending is a major factor in local employment and contributes a huge amount of taxes to local state and federal tax agencies. Comparison of these dollar values with commercial fish values provides a shocking example of the absurdity of current government fish regulations. The recreational spending for the northeastern coastal states is listed below plus commercial fish dockside value.

                          Angler           Commercial
State          Spending          FISH $ reported
                          ($ millions)      ($ million)

NH                  $ 120              7
MA                     222            !07
RI                     901             26
CT                       93                     7
NY                     558             25
NJ                     747             22
DE                     159               2
MD                     308             10
VA                     201             45
NC                     673             44

Totals        $3,172              $294

The Commercial landings include many fish species not sought by anglers, such as Bunker, Goosefish, Gizzard Shad, Tilefish, Dogfish and skates plus raised species like catfish & Bullheads. Removing the value of fish not sought by anglers reduces the dollar amounts by over 1/3 to ($190,500,000). The valuation of the fisheries is over 10 times (1,000%) based on the above tables. Use of the dollars for food fish both groups seek the multiple is 16 times or (1,600%).

This is not right! Government regulations state that the highest bidder get the rights to government property held for the benefit of all the people. When oil leases are sold on federal lands, the highest bidder gets the right to drill for oil. The same is true for timber cut from government lands. However when it comes to fish allocations from federal ocean management areas this important government procedure disappears. Instead rights and privileges to harvest the oceans resources are given to the lowest bidder, the commercial fish harvester. The fact that this gear type was the reason the fish stocks collapsed in the first place is ignored. The destroyers of the resource get the most access to the resource. This surely seems an issue that must go to court.

VIMS Survey Proves Offshore Angler’s Annual Spending is Huge

Regulators are required to consider the economic impacts of their regulations on businesses. In the past, regulators have acted as if there was no economic value to recreational fishing activity. They also believed the angler numbers were overstating actual expenditures. This was used as a reason to ignore the economic consequences of their fish management decisions on the recreational industry.

A new broad based survey with 10, 600 Virginia anglers participating was recently completed by the Virginia institute of Marine Science (VIMS). It documents Virginia anglers actual expenditures are 50.96% higher than USF&G estimates in the above table. VIMS study states Virginia Recreational spending was $303,540,356 Vs $201,064,003. Reported by USF&G. The VIMS study reported the economic output created by Virginia anglers was $477,230,000 vs. $398,927,629.

VIMS had a larger survey budget than previous angler surveys. VIMS could afford to compile all spending by

Area, Species and Spending categories; thus enabling managers to know where the angler’s money is being spent, by fish species and by location. One new statistic that may not shock those involved is the huge amount of dollars spent on offshore fishing. In Virginia only 7% of all fishing trips made were Gulf Stream trips. However, these trips accounted for 17.8% of all spending and 21.86% of the economic impact. Virginia’s offshore fishermen also take additional deepwater trips for King Mackerel Shark, Dolphin and Cobia. These trips account for 8.5% of all spending and have an economic impact of 9.2%. Combine these percentages and you determine that offshore anglers spend 26.3% of all recessional dollars spent in Virginia and creates a larger economic impact of 31.06% an of angler economic impact.

Estimation of Northeast Offshore Angler Spending

Northeast Offshore Angler spending and its economic impact can be estimated by extrapolation using VIMS survey data. The results are a more reasonable estimate of angler spending and impact for Gulfstream Canyon species like Yellowfin Tuna, Dolphin fish, Marlins, Sharks, Long-fin tuna, Big-eye tuna and Swordfish plus the pelagics normally caught nearer to shore. Gulfstream trips in Virginia are identical to Canyon trips in the Northeast and the near shore species are similar but add angler Bluefin tuna.

Offshore anglers spend a lot of money to catch tuna Gulf Stream/Canyon spending estimates are $564,530,792 for the Northeast states. Reducing this number by subtracting directed Marlin and shark trips, the balance of angler spending for Gulf stream/Canyon and represents spending of more then $500,000,000. Dividing the $500 Million anglers spent by the NMFS’ 60,197 angler-caught Yellowfin tuna at an average size of 39.37 pound each cost anglers $ 8,306. This is a higher price per ounce than sushi prices of Bluefin tuna in Japan! Talk about anglers being tuna crazy, NMFS anglers YFT number are clearly wrong. These dollar amounts were statistically supported by two databases, and the data base with the lowest numbers was used to get these dollars. The wrong numbers are the NMFS angler-caught Yellowfin numbers. The estimate of 60,197 tuna a season a beginning base from which management begins is absurd.

Are there enough tuna left to support both angler and commercials offshore?

According to NMFS October 11, 1997 report to Congress about overfished species, Swordfish, all 22 Large Coastal Shark species, White and Blue Marlin plus Bluefin Tuna are all designated as overfished. Magnuson mandates all overfished species must have a recovery plan in place by October 11, 1998. NMFS is managing all HMS fisheries with an apparent bias in favor of the commercial fishermen. Based on the available data, it is obvious that the regulations, domestic and international, have failed and do not control commercial overfishing. Overfishing is collapsing all HMS fisheries not yet reported as overfished. NMFS’ swordfish report indicates Swordfish will be "commercially extinct" in less than 10 years. Large Coastal sharks, White & Blue Marlins, Swordfish, Bluefin two have all been devastated by uncontrolled, commercial overfishing while under NMFS management plans.

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