Reconciling economic impacts and stakeholder perception: A management challenge in Florida Gulf Coast fisheries
As global fisheries management shifts towards ecosystem-based management, responsible organizations and governments must also address the socio-economic impacts of this shift. This study evaluates potential impacts of such management shift with a case study of Pulley Ridge (PR), an ecologically rich area in the Gulf of Mexico, on fishermen and economies of Florida's Gulf Coast. We developed an input-output model to estimate direct, backward-linkage, forward-linkage, and induced consumption effects of various management scenarios on the region's economy. We also solicited input on the proposed management changes from Florida saltwater fishing license holders using an online survey. Although gear restrictions may affect harvest of the region's two most lucrative fish types, snappers and groupers, the proposed changes would impact only a small fraction of the fishing industry and the regional economy. Results suggest economic impacts to affected counties and the overall Gulf Coast fishery from management changes would be limited, i.e., less than 3% reductions in income, taxes and employment. Nonetheless, almost 90% of survey respondents indicated the proposed management changes would affect their business either “Significantly” or “Very Significantly”. Results suggest developing broad based support for changes affecting the commercial fishing sector may require stakeholder negotiation along with convincing evidence that the proposed changes will improve regional fishery production in the near term.