Commercial Fishing

photo of commercial fishing boats

Commercial fishing is one of the key export industries in Monroe County/Florida Keys accounting for between 5-8% of the total income or jobs in the local economy. Commercial fishing panels have been monitored since 1998 for catch, spatial distribution of catch, and financial performance. Much of the emphasis of monitoring has been on the socioeconomic impacts of marine zoning, including the impacts of Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs) and Ecological Reserves (ERs), which are no-take areas. Monitoring also includes knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of sanctuary management strategies and regulations.


In 1992, FMRI included a socioeconomic component to the survey, which gathered information on spending by recreational spiny lobster fishermen and information on their willingness to pay for increases in catch rates. In 2001, NOAA's National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office (SPO) joined with FMRI to replicate the 1992 study. SPO entered a contract with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to provide a local group of volunteers to assist with mailing and data entry for the survey.

Commercial Fishing Panels

 Included here are a series of reports summarizing catch, financial performance and spatial distribution of catch for years 1998-2006.  Future years, if funded, will also appear here.

Marine Zoning/Marine Reserves

This currently includes two major assessments of the Tortugas Ecological Reserve.  The first assessment was done by Thomas Murray and Associates through a MARFIN Grant from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. The effort included year six of the commercial fishing panels with a pre-post assessment of the socioeconomic impact of the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. The assessment compared the original projected socioeconomic impacts by Leeworthy and Wiley (2000) with what actually occurred using a survey of commercial fishermen in 2004-05 and the commercial fishing panel’s Tortugas Panel.  In FY 2006, a second assessment was initiated by NOAA’s, National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS).  NCCOS conducted an integrated assessment with a team of over 20 physical scientists and six social scientists.  A five-year pre-post assessment was conducted.  The effort included the commercial fishing panel data, the Thomas Murray and Associates MARFIN Grant study and additional commercial fishing data from the State of Florida’s “trip ticket” database.  The NCCOS report will be completed and posted on this site in FY 2009.

Knowledge, Attitudes and Perceptions

In 1995-96, a baseline study was conducted on the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of the management strategies and regulations being proposed for the FKNMS.  The study was replicated in 2005-06.  The study addressed sources and usefulness of information; FKNMS processes in creating management strategies and regulations; FKNMS zones; performance of FKNMS; support for FKNMS; and resource conditions in the FKNMS.  Since many management strategies have changed or are new since the 1995-96 study, new baselines were also established.  Detailed comparisons of socioeconomic profiles of commercial fishermen are also provided with maps of catch by species group and region of the Florida Keys.