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Green Behind The Gills

Updated on September 4, 2014
Hunting off the Kelp edge.  La Jolla, Ca.
Hunting off the Kelp edge. La Jolla, Ca. | Source
Jim Sammons fighting first marlin caught on SOT kayak. 1998 photo from Sammons' site
Jim Sammons fighting first marlin caught on SOT kayak. 1998 photo from Sammons' site
A good place to launch- Shipwreck on beach near El Sagento, BCS Mexico
A good place to launch- Shipwreck on beach near El Sagento, BCS Mexico

Why recreational fishing is important to the economy and the fishery

San Diego is the home of the world’s largest live-bait sport fishing fleet.

The Industry has provided quite a few jobs and quite a few dollars throughout the region while evolving into a more environmentally-friendly enterprise.The full-day and longer trips concentrate on pelagic species such as tuna, dorado and yellowtail, which are more sustainable and fast-growing. The local boats that run the three-quarter day and half-day trips not only follow strict regulation as per limits and protected areas, they also promote the health of their livelihood in that they tend to frown upon overtakes and fishing tender areas not regulated, yet by their experience, knowledgeable about.

This is a big turnaround from the days of yore when the seas seemed so full of fish that they would never go away. Since then, many have gone away. And a new thought entered the world of recreational fishing “why not maintain what we love so much so as not to lose it for the future generations?” And the modern day angler was born.

However, the commercial fishing industry has taken quite a few hits in its popularity among the environmentally conscious over the years, and not without good reason. Some practices around the world in commercial harvesting methods and the harvesting of species teetering on the brink of extinction are appalling. There is a responsible and sustainable “take” and many fish within those mostly self-imposed limits, though it is a wide-flung fishery this world has and it is much harder to enforce the rules in the commercial Industry.

The primary encouragement to the commercial fishermen to fish within the limits imposed by those that regulate the industry is the depletion of resource in the areas they fish. They understand that applying the industry’s regulations is the best way not to fish themselves out of a livelihood. For that reason, fishermen will fight to protect their fishery. One example of this is the conflict that arose in 1984 in Texas between the locals and Vietnamese fishermen used to no regulation. ( a link to that story) The problem sometimes is that scientific research is lacking in the understanding of just how harmful the commercial take can be in some of the fisheries. This is mostly because there is not a lot of the commercial fleet income that goes towards any research. They could take a hint from the recreational fishing community.

In recreational fishing, a prospective harvester, those that practice “Catch and Release” and those that do both are required to get a fishing license. No license is required for those under sixteen years of age. The fees are under $60 here in California for residents and aren’t all that expensive, and doable for most that wish to get a line wet.The only occasion when a license is not required is when the angler is fishing from a municipal pier or a man-made projection that extends beyond the shoreline perpendicular to the shoreline and from that point. Like a jetty, but only from the point where it extends into the ocean and not back into any area that might be on one side of the projection, as is the case with the Mission Bay jetties. The proceeds from recreational fishing license sales go directly to the management of the fishery.

The industry that provides the fishermen with their wares, the rods and reels, tackle, boats, kayaks and the like, is large and provides many jobs and is an economic force of its own here in Southern California. Currently, many more fishermen than ever before are enjoying the tranquility of “green fishing” from kayaks and float tubes and even paddleboards. The kayak fishing industry alone, barely a blip on the radar a decade and a half ago, has exploded into a world-wide phenomenon today.

The art of paddling out through the surf, catching some bait and hooking and landing a yellowtail, or any other game fish, got much of its modern roots here in Southern California. The pioneers of the sport, like Jim Sammons, a local kayak-fishing guide since 1996 and now the host of “The Kayak Fishing Show” on WFN, and Jeff Krieger, inventor of the Rhino-bar, an integral tool that provides a mounting structure for fish-finders and other gear, blazed a trail for many to come and have had a lot of input in the design of many of the products available to kayak fishermen today. And not just products, but the popularity of the sport as well is due greatly to their, and many others, hard work and diligence in promoting a more environmentally friendly way to enjoy fishing from a vessel.

In 1998, while half a mile off of Scripps Pier with clients, Jim Sammons hooked and fought an estimated two-hundred pound marlin that towed him eight miles before it was released. This was the first marlin catch and release recorded from a plastic sit-on-top kayak.

Many stories of large game fish being caught and released or hitting the beaches strapped to a kayak started circulating in the fishing community and the news spread of this kind of action from an inexpensive vessel. There were no “fishing” kayaks at that time, just kayaks rigged for fishing by the fishermen themselves. The popular choice back then was Ocean Kayak’s “Scupper Pro TW”, a kayak that could be mounted from the water with a “tank-well” to accommodate a single dive tank in the rear and a stowage hatch in the front and was originally designed for scuba divers.

The original Scupper Pro, a touring kayak that has a hatch front and back leaves little room for fitting a bait tank or hauling gear where you need it- within reach and not inside the hull. That being said, the hull is a great place to stow your gear while going out, coming in or paddling between spots in rougher conditions. So ease of access to the hull while on the water, mounting structure for electronics, plumbing for bait tanks and many other design ideas through trial, need and error helped create the latest fishing kayaks on the market. Check out Jackson's new Jim Sammons' signature boat, the Kraken, if you want to see an excellent example the apex of the offshore fishing kayaks as of 2014. Below is a good video with Sammons explaining the "whys" behind the design.

Not long after the trend of kayak fishing started catching on, the human-powered fishing vessel industry blew up so fast that manufacturers were scrambling to provide the many different fishing styled sit-on-top kayaks and accessories that are now in every corner of the world. Just about every State in the US and many countries throughout the world have kayak-fishing clubs.

So now, many who love to be on the water and would otherwise be on a power boat or left ashore are paddling out through the morning mist to fetch their supper in a very environmentally-friendly way that promotes lots of jobs. It is a win-win in my thinking. I have been enjoying the sport for twenty years now, the last fifteen here in San Diego and throughout Baja. Even though I love fishing and fresh fish on the dinner plate, I started being concerned about the negative impact of the average angler to the fishery as well as to the wallet.

So I thought to myself… “What is the actual environmental impact as far as tons harvested compared to the financial benefit of each industry when comparing commercial and recreational fishing” and what I found was impressive, if not truly surprising yet not hard to find online.

In the report “Comparing NOAA’s

Recreational and Commercial Fishing

Economic Data” produced for the

American Sportfishing Association, May, 2013, it is stated that;

“In 2011, (US) (recreational) anglers landed 204.9 million pounds of saltwater fish. In pursuit of these fish, saltwater anglers spent $26.8 billion on fishing tackle and equipment and trip-related goods and services. Including multiplier effects, their spending generated $70.3 billion

In economic output (sales), created $32.5 billion in value-added growth and supported 454,542 jobs with $20.5 billion in income.”

These numbers are almost awe-inspiring, but when compared to the Commercial industry, you begin to see the value of fresh-caught fish by the recreational angler...

“Commercial fishermen in the U.S. landed 9.9 billion pounds of fin- and shellfish in 2011 valued at $5.3 billion. Finfish represented 86 percent of the total commercial landings by weight and 49 percent of the total value, at 8.5 billion pounds and $2.6 billion respectively. Of the commercial sector’s landings, 4.9 billion fin-fish pounds were the same species frequently targeted by anglers, with a landed value of $2.1 billion. Including multiplier effects along the entire value chain from harvesters to processors to final consumers, commercial finfish harvest of species also sought by anglers generated $20.5 billion of economic output. This is the sales impact, which is not to be confused with expenditures or retail sales which created $10.6 billion in value-added impacts and generated 304,611 jobs with $7.5 billion of income”.

So, in Summary, the total economic benefit from recreational fishing is 123 billion dollars and provides over 454,000 jobs, compared to the total economic benefit of commercial fishing of just over 40 billion dollars while providing just over 300,000 jobs. Yet commercial takes are nearly forty times the tonnage than that of the recreational fishermen. It’s not hard to see, then, why recreational fishing is a necessary benefit to the economy and the environment. Especially when we factor in that the recreational anglers spend way more on environmental research and management and tend to keep each other in line while many commercial operators are all alone out there in their hunt for cash.

Prior to the White Seabass Restocking Program implemented in the early 1980's the fish had been nearly depleted from the local waters. Due to the restocking program, restricting commercial access and angler catch limits, they are now a part of our sustainable local fishery in healthy numbers My father, an avid fisherman and diver, was very involved in this effort. -DSP

Author with white seabass, La Jolla, Ca. 2000
Author with white seabass, La Jolla, Ca. 2000

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