The fishery council credibility gap

Credibility is defined as “the quality of being trusted and believed in.” It’s an essential quality, particularly to govern. In the late 1960s the term “credibility gap” was created to describe public skepticism of the federal government during the Vietnam War era. It’s defined as “an apparent difference between what is said or promised and what happens or is true.”

This week in New Bern, NC, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council created its own credibility gap with fishermen and other stakeholders when it decided to include catch share schemes for both the commercial and for-hire sectors, expensive vessel monitoring systems for all sectors, and more no-fishing Marine Protected Areas -- all management measures vehemently opposed by the vast majority of stakeholders -- in its draft long-term plan for the snapper-grouper fishery called the Vision Project.

This despite the fact that the SAFMC promised that the Vision Project would be “stakeholder-driven,” resulting in “a vision that is shared between the Council and all stakeholders in the South Atlantic.” The quotes are from the SAFMC website.

This year, the SAFMC conducted 26 “port meetings” that were supposed to seek stakeholder input into the Vision Project. These meetings, according to the SAFMC’s own records, produced ample input that stakeholders don’t support catch shares, VMS or more MPAs.

But the SAFMC really didn’t need these meetings to know how fishermen and other stakeholders feel about these management measures. Each time the fishery council has proposed catch shares, VMS, and MPAs in the past, they have been met with massive opposition to the point where the council has had to withdraw the proposals. So they should know better.

Catch share programs, VMS, and MPAs are not required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act; their use by regional fishery councils is entirely optional. Studies have shown that catch shares provide no biological benefit to fisheries and destroy jobs.

If you attended the SAFMC Vision Project meeting this week, as our Executive Director Tom Swatzel did or listened in on the webinar, you heard a council that was intent on driving the project, particularly as it relates to catch shares. The council chairman said that the SAFMC should take an active role in educating fishermen about catch shares. Others talked about how well catch shares were working in the Northeast, despite evidence to the contrary.

The SAFMC has turned what could have been a useful stakeholder-driven long-term plan that snapper-grouper fishermen could count on into one of the biggest threats to the existence of commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen. As this draft Vision Project moves through the fishery council approval process next year, stakeholders need to be vigilant and strongly voice their concerns each step of the way.

Unfortunately, the huge credibility gap the SAFMC has created with fishermen and other stakeholders may not be repairable for a very long time.

Respectfully,

Wayne Mershon
President
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The CFSF is a non-profit fishing advocacy group that relies on membership dues and contributions to operate. If you are not already a member, please join today at the highest level you can afford by clicking here. Thank you!

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Share

Fishery council credibility is at stake

Last year, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council made a big splash about wanting to pursue a snapper-grouper fishery Vision Project to create a long-term plan for the fishery that would be “stakeholder-driven,” resulting in “a vision that is shared between the Council and all stakeholders in the South Atlantic.”

In February through April of this year, the SAFMC conducted 26 “port meetings” to seek stakeholder input into the Vision Project. Last month the SAFMC held a Vision workshop to “move forward with the input received during the port meetings” by drafting long-term management strategies for the fishery.

The draft Vision management strategies were publicly revealed last week and incredibly they included catch shares, expensive Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), and more no-fishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) -- measures vehemently opposed by the vast majority of stakeholders for years through the council amendment process and more recently through the Vision port meetings.

We’re shocked and disappointed to see the SAFMC depart so dramatically from the stakeholder-driven, shared vision approach that the council has held itself out as supporting.

Additionally, it seems the document has been drafted to be anything but direct with stakeholders about the inclusion of catch shares as a management strategy.

The phrase “catch shares” is nowhere to be found in the document. Instead creative code-speak is used to describe the strategy throughout the document: “sector share management system,” “individual quota management system,” “individual quota programs,” “sector share programs/cooperatives,” “individual quotas,” and “allocations by permit.”

The approach the SAFMC is taking with these Vision management strategies hurts the credibility of the council with already skeptical stakeholders and jeopardizes the Vision Project as currently defined.

Next week the SAFMC will consider these draft management strategies at its meeting in New Bern, NC.

We’re urging the council to refocus on achieving a stakeholder-driven, shared vision of snapper-grouper management strategies - as promised - by eliminating catch shares, VMS, and additional MPAs as Vision Project management strategies.

The credibility of both the Vision Project and the SAFMC is at stake.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director

P.S. The CFSF is a non-profit fishing advocacy group that relies on membership dues and contributions to operate. If you are not already a member, please join today at the highest level you can afford by clicking here. Thank you!

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Share

Congress needs to reform fishery management law

I’m hopeful that the elections this week will result in a Congress that will address needed Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms.

Now, more than ever, commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurants, and others that rely on fishing, are being economically hurt by federal fishery management policy and regulations driven by the MSA.

For example in the South Atlantic region, since reauthorization of the MSA in 2007, snapper-grouper fishing effort from all fishing sectors combined has declined by nearly 40 percent and landings are down nearly 35 percent from peaks in 2007 and 2008.

The fishing industry has been impacted by an unprecedented growth in job killing regulations affecting the region’s coastal economy.

In just three years, from 2009 to 2012, a combined total of 16 fishery management plan and regulatory amendments and interim rules affecting the snapper-grouper fishery were approved.

In comparison, during the first 25 years of the South Atlantic Snapper-Grouper Management Plan, from 1983 to 2008, a combined total of 20 plan and regulatory amendments and interim rules were approved.

The CFSF supports Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R-WA) MSA reform legislation, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,”, passed in a bipartisan vote by the House Natural Resources Committee in May, which would provide regional fishery management councils with a more practical timeframe for ending overfishing and needed flexibility in establishing fishery rebuilding plans, and would also require referendum approval of any proposed “catch share” programs in the South Atlantic region by a majority of the affected fishery permit holders.

A congressionally requested report from the National Research Council released in 2013 said that more flexibility in the length of fishery rebuilding plans is needed.

The CFSF will continue pushing for MSA reforms in the new Congress. We ask that you join us in this important push by letting your Congressional representatives know that you support Rep. Hasting’s bill, H.R. 4742.

Click here to find and contact your representatives.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Sustainablefishing.org

P.S. The CFSF is a non-profit fishing advocacy group that relies on membership dues and contributions to operate. If you are not already a member, please join today at the highest level you can afford by clicking here. Thank you!

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Share

Working to prevent a grouper closure and catch shares

Last week, I attended the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in Charleston, SC and wanted to make you aware of some important decisions made by the council.

While the council approved increased Annual Catch Limits for a number of unassessed snapper-grouper species such as gray triggerfish (commercial and recreational ACLs will increase by about 40,000 lbs. and 51,000 lbs. respectively next year), the council was on the verge of slashing the overall scamp grouper ACL by over 40 percent, which had the potential of hurting fishermen, particularly in the Carolinas.

Fortunately, we were able to make an effective case individually with council members and during the public hearing that the proposed scamp ACL was unreasonably low and that an ACL should be approved that was unlikely to result in the closure of the fishery. The council approved the ACL we asked for on a 10 to 1 vote.

The council moved forward with Snapper-Grouper Amendment 36, which would establish spawning Special Management Zones that would prohibit bottom fishing.

You may recall that in June, after an outcry from fishermen and coastal businesses led by the CFSF, the council voted to halt its proposal for up to 1,000 sq. miles of additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas that would have prohibited bottom fishing, choosing instead to seek public input on using smaller SMZs to protect some deep-water snapper-grouper spawning areas.

The council decided to establish the following areas for analysis as potential spawning SMZs:
North Carolina: “Malchase Wreck” and “780 Bottom”
South Carolina: “Devil’s Hole 3” (Georgetown Hole)
Georgia: “St. Simons Extension 2” and “Georgia MPA Reconfigure”
East Florida: “Warsaw Hole” and “Daytona Steeples”

We have concerns about whether the spawning SMZs are necessary given that existing deep-water MPAs are very likely protecting spawning fish; over 800 sq. miles of deep-water coral habitat protection, prohibiting bottom fishing, was just established; and a January to April spawning season closure already exists for most grouper species.

We’ll continue to closely monitor the development of these SMZs and work to minimize their impacts on fishermen.

And finally, the council will meet October 14-16 in Charleston in a “visioning” workshop to continue development of a long-term vision for managing the snapper-grouper fishery.

In June, when council members submitted their top three issues/solutions as part of the visioning process, catch shares made it into the top ten issues for consideration.

It is very important for fishing interests to be vigilant about catch shares programs, voluntary or not. Studies have shown that there is no biological benefit to catch share programs and that they hurt fishing communities by destroying jobs.

This effort to monitor and influence the outcome of SAFMC fishery management decisions takes time and money. That’s why we need your financial support today!

Please join the CFSF as a member at the highest level that you can afford today by clicking here.

If you’re already a member, please consider a higher membership level or a direct contribution. Help us continue our efforts on behalf of fishing interests.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Share

Important SAFMC public hearings

Starting tomorrow, August 6th, in North Myrtle Beach, SC, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will conduct a series of public hearings on various fishery management plan amendments, including Snapper-Grouper Amendment 36, which would establish spawning Special Management Zones that would prohibit bottom fishing.

In June, after an outcry from fishermen and coastal businesses, the SAFMC voted to halt its proposal for up to 1,000 sq. miles of additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas off the Carolinas, Georgia, and east Florida that would have prohibited bottom fishing, choosing instead to seek public input on using these smaller SMZs to protect some deep-water snapper-grouper spawning areas.

We have concerns about whether the spawning SMZs are necessary given that the eight existing deep-water MPAs are very likely protecting spawning fish; Coral Amendment 8 will establish over 800 sq. miles of Habitat Areas of Particular Concern in deep-water, prohibiting bottom fishing; and a January to April spawning season closure already exists for most grouper species.

Click here for our written comments on Amendment 36.

Comments about other proposed amendments affecting dolphin, wahoo, blueline tilefish, snowy grouper, and spanish mackerel will also be taken.

Click here for the public hearing schedule and information about the proposed amendments.

All hearings are from 4 pm to 7 pm. Written comments can be sent to mike.collins@safmc.net and are due by 5 pm on August 18th.

We urge you to participate in the public hearing process.

Respectfully,

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director

P.S. The CFSF is a non-profit fishing advocacy group that relies on membership dues and contributions to operate. We need your financial support! If you are not already a member, please join today at the highest level you can afford by clicking here. Thank you!

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Share

Red snapper catches reported as outstanding, stock assessment needed now

After two of the three weekends of the red snapper recreational mini-season, outstanding catches have been reported throughout the South Atlantic region.

Here are some of the news reports:

Daytona Beach News-Journal: “A packed party boat pulled up to the Critter Fleet dock Friday afternoon, unloading dozens of grinning fishermen and pairing them with their prized catch of the day — stringer after stringer of big, red snapper… A parade of private boats and charter boats motored out of Ponce Inlet Friday, returning in the afternoon with scores of red snapper.”
Click here for the article.

Charleston Post & Courier: “The halfway point of the mini-season in which fishermen can keep American red snappers has passed, and from all indications it has been extremely successful… ‘From my viewpoint and from everyone I have talked to up and down the coast, from what I understand red snapper were caught real, real well this past weekend,’ said Capt. Mark Brown of the Teaser 2, who recently was appointed to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council.”
Click here for the article.

Florida Today: “For the second time in four years, anglers were able to tap into the Space Coast's red snapper fishing mini-season last weekend… Jeff Sauer and his son Trey, 4, fished with friend Jon Godwin out of Sebastian Inlet on Saturday, July 12…’We caught our limit of snapper, about five- to seven-pounders,’ Sauer said. ‘And we released a bunch more.’…’There was no shortage of fish and no shortage of smiles.’"
Click here for the article.

This Friday and Saturday, July 25-26, will be the last weekend of the mini-season. The recreational catch limit is 22,576 fish. There is no size limit.

The commercial mini-season opened July 14th with a catch limit of 50,994 lbs. gutted weight and a 75 lbs. gutted weight trip limit. There is no size limit.

The abundance of red snapper reported during this mini-season mirrors what fishermen have been telling the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council since the fishery was effectively closed four years ago.

Fishermen and affected coastal businesses have suffered great economic losses because of the closure and have been asking for a red snapper stock assessment year after year. One is now scheduled to be presented to the SAFMC next summer.

US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) in a recent op-ed in the Daytona Beach News-Journal said this about the red snapper closure:

“As the Department of Commerce has been severely restricting or closing the federal season since 2010, fishermen out on the water have been catching red snapper and forced to throw them back.

None of this had to happen. The Department of Commerce does not have complete or updated data to justify the limited season. The last benchmark stock assessment was conducted in 2010, and the next assessment for the fishery was scheduled for 2013, but was later delayed to 2014.

While I appreciate the economic benefits this [mini]season will bring to the communities along the South Atlantic, I believe this season could have been even longer if our fisheries were managed based on reliable, real-time data.”

Click here for the op-ed.

Sen. Rubio is correct, particularly about the need for better and more timely fishery management data.

The red snapper stock assessment process will begin next month with a data workshop in Charleston. CFSF board member Sonny Davis will be a participant in the workshop. The assessment should be conducted as expeditiously as possible.

It’s our hope that the red snapper assessment verifies what fishermen are seeing out on the water and results in restoring meaningful annual catch limits to both recreational and commercial fishermen.

Respectfully,

TLS_signature_(black).jpg

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Sustainablefishing.org

P.S. The CFSF is a non-profit fishing advocacy group that relies on membership dues and contributions to operate. If you are not already a member, please join today at the highest level you can afford by clicking here. Thank you!

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Share

Long-time NC fishing leader, head boat operator elected to Council for Sustainable Fishing board

MURRELLS INLET, SC – Sonny Davis, owner of the Capt. Stacy Fishing Center in Atlantic Beach, NC and a life-long fishing industry veteran, last week was elected to the board of directors of the Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit fishing advocacy group focused on optimizing and sustaining fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic region.

“It’s great to have Sonny on the board. He brings tremendous leadership experience in the for-hire fishing sector to the table,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said. “Sonny is active in a number of fishing advocacy groups and understands the need to improve annual catch limits for fishermen and to ensure that the industry is not burdened by unnecessary regulations that have no bearing on fishery sustainability.”

“I’m pleased to serve on the CFSF board and provide guidance to the organization. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the fishing business since I started. It’s now a much more difficult business to be in,” Sonny Davis said. “I do know that it’s important for fishermen to unite to look out for our interests when it comes to fishery management decisions.”

Davis started his business in 1960, naming it after his father Capt. Stacy Davis, who ran charters out of Morehead City. Davis is a board member of NC Watermen United, serves on the Carteret County Marine Fisheries Advisory Board and has been appointed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to be a participant in the upcoming red snapper stock assessment that starts next month.

Founded last year, the CFSF has a unique multistate membership combination of commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region that have a stated mission of “optimizing and sustaining fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to aid the coastal economy of the region and ensure stable seafood availability to consumers.”

The CFSF has been active in pursuing Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms and in opposing unnecessary fishery regulations under consideration by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

The CFSF has expressed support for MSA reauthorization legislation that would give regional fishery management councils more flexibility in ending overfishing and rebuilding fisheries, allow consideration of ecosystem changes and the economic needs of fishing communities in establishing annual catch limits, and require referendum approval of any proposed “catch share” programs in the South Atlantic region by a majority of the affected fishery permit holders.

Most recently, the CFSF successfully fought against a SAFMC proposal to establish over 1,000 sq. miles of additional no-fishing zones or Marine Protected Areas off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and east Florida, that even the fishery council’s own scientific advisors have said were not justifiable. Last month, the SAFMC voted to halt the MPA proposal.

In addition to Davis, the CFSF board members are Wayne Mershon, owner, Kenyon Seafood, Murrells Inlet, SC; Langdon Gunter, recreational fishermen, Myrtle Beach, SC; Ann Shipman, Business Development Manager and Center of the Plate Protein Specialist, Greer, SC; James Clark, Executive Chef at The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC; Cheryl Fuller, Director of Seafood Operations, Halperns’ Steak and Seafood, Atlanta, GA; and Tony Hancock and Sean Heverin, both commercial fishermen from Jacksonville, FL.

Share

Regional Fishery Management Council Committee asks Oceana to retract inaccurate bycatch report

Oceana got a lot of media attention recently with their “report” on bycatch entitled “Wasted Catch,” that listed the nine most “dirty’ fisheries.

Last week, the Regional Fishery Management Council Coordination Committee took the extraordinary measure of issuing a letter to Oceana recommending that they retract the report because of “a variety of substantial errors, omissions, and organizational approaches” that “seriously miscommunicate bycatch information.”

The committee said “Misinformation in reports like “Wasted Catch” undermines those productive relationships between industry, management, and NGOs that have been effective in reducing bycatch.”

Click here for the letter.

Share

SAFMC halts MPA effort, includes catch shares in top ten list

Acknowledging widespread opposition from fishermen and coastal businesses to its proposal for up to 1,000 sq. miles of additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas off the Carolinas, Georgia, and east Florida, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at its meeting last week halted the proposal, choosing instead to seek public input on using smaller Special Management Zones to protect some deep-water snapper-grouper spawning areas.

The SAFMC has been pushed hard for over two years by radical environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Pew to approve the proposed MPAs even though the SAFMC’s own scientific advisors have said there is no scientific justification.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing took a lead in pointing out the lack of scientific justification for the proposed MPAs and absence of any systematic evaluations of the existing deep-water MPAs.

The SAFMC will be conducting public scoping meetings on the SMZ concept for deep-water spawning areas, now called Snapper-Grouper Amendment 36, August 6-14 and will also be taking written comments. Click here for the scoping meeting schedule. Written comments can be emailed to mike.collins@safmc.net.

While protecting significant deep-water snapper-grouper spawning areas during spawning seasons has merit, the SAFMC must first ensure that there is an evaluation plan in place for the eight existing deep-water MPAs in the South Atlantic, totaling about 530 sq. miles, which were approved in 2009 to protect deep-water snapper-grouper species, particularly speckled hind and warsaw grouper.

In the five years these MPAs have existed, no systematic monitoring has occurred to evaluate their effectiveness. In fact the SAFMC voted in 2006 to remove an evaluation plan from that MPA plan because the council did not want to be held accountable for its execution or funding.

These existing MPAs may be doing an adequate job of protecting spawning areas and enhancing snapper-grouper populations, but until there is some systematic monitoring, there can be no way to quantify the results.

It is of great concern that at last week’s SAFMC meeting, when council members submitted their top three issues/solutions as part of the snapper-grouper fishery “visioning” process, catch shares made it into the top ten issues for consideration. Click here for the visioning workshop report.

It is very important for fishing interests to be vigilant about catch shares programs, voluntary or not, moving forward for fishery council consideration. Studies have shown that there is no biological benefit to catch share programs and that they hurt fishing communities by destroying jobs.

Click here for a report by Food and Water Watch about the “economic devastation” catch share programs have caused.

To be able to continue to fund an effective campaign for fishing interests and against unnecessary and unjustifiable MPAs or programs like catch shares that have no bearing on fishery sustainability, we need your financial support today!

Please join the CFSF as a member at the highest level that you can afford today by clicking here.

If you are already a member, please consider a higher membership level or a direct contribution.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Share

Help get the best qualified fisheries managers

Good news from last week: Governors Nikki Haley and Rick Scott nominated charter boat operators Mark Brown from Charleston and Robert Johnson from St. Augustine respectively for appointment to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to fill seats for recreational/for-hire representation.

The nomination letters submitted to NOAA Fisheries can be viewed here and here.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing took the lead in urging the nomination of Mark and Robert, who are very experienced fishermen and know first-hand the economic impacts of fishery regulations on fishermen and the coastal economy. They are both very experienced in the federal fisheries management process, having served for years on SAFMC advisory and stock assessment panels.

There is no doubt that Mark and Robert are the best qualified to serve on the SAFMC. But now the appointment decision is in the hands of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce through NOAA Fisheries.

It’s important that fishermen and related businesses send emails as soon as possible to NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eileen Sobeck urging the appointment of Mark Brown and Robert Johnson. Her email address is eileen.sobeck@noaa.gov 

NOAA Fisheries will announce the appointments in June and the new appointees will take office in August.

Read more
Share

← Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  Next →
Council for Sustainable Fishing