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Years of overfishing depleted species. (Photo: PEW)

Overfishing costs Southeast tens of millions of dollars

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Wednesday, September 05, 2012, 22:40 (GMT + 9)

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 2005-9 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 USD 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 USD 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 US Fisheries Campaigns. “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 per cent of a safe population level, direct spending losses amounted to an average of USD 13 million annually because of fewer fishing trips targeting that species. When looking at the broader economy, this loss increased to USD 33 million.

In the South Atlantic from Florida to North Carolina, where red snapper have declined to 12.5 per cent of a safe level, the total economic loss was USD 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 US 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 per cent of the nation’s commercially and recreationally important ocean fish, including some species of tuna, cod, flounder, snapper, and grouper.

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