United States Mid-Atlantic Golden Tilefish Individual Fishing Quota Program

United States Mid-Atlantic Golden Tilefish Individual Fishing Quota Program

Annual commercial landings in the tilefish fishery were less than 125 metric tons in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but increased rapidly to more than 3,800 metric tons in 1979 and 1980.  Over the next decade, landings fluctuated but trends showed an overall downward spiral. In 1998, a stock assessment revealed the golden tilefish stock was overfished. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council implemented a fishery management plan in 2001 that included a commercial catch limit and trip limits for incidental tilefish catch.  While the catch limit had a positive impact on stocks, the new regulations increased competition among fishermen to catch as many fish as possible before the annual limit was reached. Derby-style fishing led to fishing in poor weather and early closures, limiting the ability of fishermen in some cases to make a living. 

In November 2009, an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program was introduced in the fishery to eliminate the unsafe and inefficient derby-style fishing. The IFQ program is already showing signs of economic improvement. The fishery is open year-round giving IFQ participants the ability to improve their business operations, fishing when the weather is clear and the prices at the dock are higher. Participants are also able to take fewer and shorter trips to catch the same amount of fish, increasing efficiency and reducing costs. According to NOAA Fisheries Service, with inflation considered, the average landings value in 2010 was 13% higher per pound than the 2009 average and 11% higher than the 10-year average. The fishery’s total revenue was higher in the 2010 fishing year than in the years preceding IFQ implementation.