CFSF urges Gov. Scott to select Robert Johnson as his preferred nominee for open SAFMC seat

Below is the text of a letter sent to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on February 28th, urging him to nominate St. Augustine charter boat operator Robert Johnson as his preferred nominee for appointment to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to fill an open seat currently held by John Jolley, who is not seeking reappointment.

Earlier this week, the CFSF sent a letter urging South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to nominate Mark Brown as her preferred nominee for the seat being vacated by David Cupka, who is term limited.

These are the only two SAFMC seats that are up for appointment this year.

Both seats are supposed to be filled by recreational/for-hire fishing representatives.

Governors must submit nominations to NOAA Fisheries by March 15th for consideration by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Appointments are announced in June.

Dear Governor Scott,

The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a nonprofit advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region, including Florida. Our mission is to optimize and sustain fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to aid the coastal economy of the region and ensure stable seafood availability to consumers.

We write to urge you to nominate St. Augustine charter boat operator and recreational fisherman Robert Johnson for appointment to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council as your preferred nominee. Without doubt, Robert is the most qualified and has by far the most experience as to participation in South Atlantic fisheries and the regional fishery management council process.

Robert has over 30 years of experience as a working Florida charter boat captain. He is a respected leader in recreational and for-hire fishing, who has worked tirelessly to affect fishery management policy for the good of fishermen and the resource.

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CFSF urges Gov. Haley to select Mark Brown as her preferred nominee for open SAFMC seat

Below is the text of a letter sent to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on February 24th, urging her to nominate long-time Mt. Pleasant charter boat operator Mark Brown as her preferred nominee for appointment to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to fill an open seat currently held by David Cupka, who is term limited.

Gov. Haley must submit her nominations to NOAA Fisheries by March 15th for consideration by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Appointments are announced in June.

Dear Governor Haley,

The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a South Carolina-based nonprofit advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region. Our mission is to optimize and sustain fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to aid the coastal economy of the region and ensure stable seafood availability to consumers.

We write to urge you to nominate Mark Brown for appointment to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council as your preferred nominee. Without doubt, Mark is the most qualified and has by far the most experience as to participation in South Atlantic fisheries and the federal fishery management council process.

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Seafood operations director of Atlanta-based Halperns' elected to Council for Sustainable Fishing board

MURRELLS INLET, SC – Cheryl Fuller, Director of Seafood Operations for Atlanta-based seafood and steak distributor Halperns’, this month 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.

“We’re very pleased to have Cheryl on the board. She is a top seafood buyer and understands the need to improve annual catch limits for fishermen to the extent possible. The experience she brings to the board will be very helpful as we work to improve domestic seafood availability to consumers,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said.

"Having been born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, the South Atlantic fishery is of very special interest to me. Today we have to be the caretakers, watching out for the many men and women that fish there, while also protecting the environment for our future generations. Collectively we can make a difference," Cheryl Fuller said.

Click here for a Seafood International story about Cheryl.

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 has 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, asking Congress to include a moratorium on Marine Protected Areas in the region in MSA reauthorization legislation.

In addition to Fuller, the CFSF board members are Wayne Mershon, owner of 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; and Tony Hancock and Sean Heverin, both commercial fishermen from Jacksonville, FL.

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Tell the SAFMC how you want the snapper-grouper fishery managed!

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is developing a long-term “vision” for managing the snapper grouper fishery. Next week, beginning in South Carolina, the fishery council will begin a series of “port meetings” to seek input from commercial and recreational snapper-grouper fishermen, dealers, chefs and others who have a stake in the fishery as to how the fishery should be managed long-term.

Click here for detailed information about the SAFMC Visioning Project.

The first port meetings will be in Murrells Inlet next Tuesday, February 11th at 2 pm and 6 pm at Capt. Dave’s Dockside Restaurant and on Wednesday, February 12th at 10:30 am at The Ordinary Restaurant in Charleston.

More meetings will be held in South Carolina in late February. Then meeting will be held in North Carolina and Florida in March and in Georgia in April. Click here for the full meeting schedule.

These are important meetings and you’re urged to attend. The outcome will affect how your snapper-grouper fishery is managed for years to come.

If you’re unable to attend, comments can be emailed to safmcvision@safmc.net

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Important meetings in Florida and Georgia this week!

This week, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will conduct public input meetings in Florida and Georgia on proposed fishery management plan amendments that will affect the black sea bass trap fishery, gray triggerfish, Spanish and king mackerel, and how Annual Catch Limits are calculated on some unassessed snapper-grouper species.

The meeting today will be in Key West, FL.

These are important fishery issues and we urge you to participate in these meetings and/or submit written comments. Click here for the public meeting schedule, how to submit written comments and the amendment documents.

Last Tuesday, CFSF President Wayne Mershon and I attended the SAFMC input meeting in North Myrtle Beach, SC where Wayne spoke about our support for increasing Annual Catch Limits on snapper-grouper species and Spanish mackerel and the need to let commercial black sea bass trap fishermen go back to fishing in the traditional winter months.

Click here for Wayne’s letter to the SAFMC.

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Important upcoming meetings!

Beginning Tuesday, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold a series of public meetings over the next two weeks to seek input on proposed fishery management plan amendments that will affect the black sea bass trap fishery, gray triggerfish, Spanish and king mackerel, and how Annual Catch Limits are calculated on some unassessed snapper-grouper species.

These are important fishery issues and we urge you to participate in these meetings and/or to submit written comments.

Click here for the public meeting schedule, how to submit written comments and the amendment documents.

Click here for CFSF President Wayne Mershon’s letter to the SAFMC stating our position on these amendments. Wayne will be attending the meeting in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Tuesday to also deliver our position in person.

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Council for Sustainable Fishing urges Congress to pass proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms, asks for moratorium on no-fishing zones off Southeastern states

MURRELLS INLET, SC – The Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishing interests, Tuesday sent a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee and its Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) urging passage of Hastings’ proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reform legislation and asking for inclusion of a moratorium on controversial no-fishing zones off the Southeastern states.

“The CFSF supports your proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization legislation entitled ‘Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act’ and urges its passage by Congress. Commercial and recreational fishermen and related businesses have unnecessarily suffered severe economic losses as a result of the inflexible mandates of the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Act,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel wrote.

“The CFSF strongly urges inclusion in the legislation of at least a five year moratorium on the establishment of any additional live bottom Marine Protected Areas in the South Atlantic region…We believe a five year moratorium on MPAs in the South Atlantic will protect fishermen and the coastal economy from an arbitrary and capricious fishery council decision and allow time for a systematic evaluation of the existing deep-water MPAs and quantification as to their impacts on enhancing speckled hind and warsaw grouper populations,” continued Swatzel.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering a plan that could create over 1,000 square miles of additional deep-water MPAs off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and east Florida, in which all bottom-fishing would be prohibited, to reduce the bycatch of speckled hind and warsaw grouper.

In 1994, commercial sales of speckled hind and warsaw grouper were prohibited and the recreational bag limit for each species was reduced to one, and in 2010 the fisheries were closed as a precautionary measure.

The SAFMC’s own scientific advisors have questioned the justification of the proposed MPAs, stating in an April 2012 report: “Given all of the current regulations that affect other snapper grouper species, it is possible overfishing for speckled hind and Warsaw grouper is no longer occurring. …There isn’t enough scientific backing to say [area] closures will do what managers need them to do. …Currently, there is no analysis that shows any conservation benefits of [area] closures to these species.”

The Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation Observer Project “concluded the bycatch level of speckled hind/warsaw grouper was too low to generate an estimate of bycatch for the South Atlantic commercial snapper grouper fishery” according the SAFMC’s draft MPA amendment.

Eight existing South Atlantic deep-water MPAs banning bottom-fishing, totaling about 530 square miles, were established in 2009, to protect deep-water snapper-grouper species, particularly speckled hind and warsaw grouper.

“In the nearly 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 the MPA plan because the council did not want to be held accountable for its execution or funding,” Swatzel wrote.

The impacts of the 2007 version of the MSA have been especially felt in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery, where from 2007 to 2012, fishing effort and landings from all sectors combined plunged by nearly 40 percent and 35 percent respectively.

Hastings’ legislation would, among other things, increase the time period for regional fishery management councils to end overfishing from 2 to 3 years, give the councils the flexibility to institute fishery rebuilding plans that extend beyond the existing 10 year mandate, and allow consideration of ecosystem changes and the economic needs of fishing communities in establishing annual catch limits.

A congressionally requested report from the National Research Council released in September said that more flexibility in the length of fishery rebuilding plans is needed. The report stated that there was a “…mismatch between the current prescriptions for rebuilding within a limited time frame and the uncertainties inherent in assessing and managing fisheries given data limitations and complex ecosystem dynamics where fishing is only one of many influences on fish populations.”

The legislation “provides regional fishery management councils with a more practical timeframe for ending overfishing and needed flexibility in establishing fishery rebuilding plans,” Swatzel wrote.

Hastings’ legislation 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 catch share-based fishery management plan takes a fishermen’s landings and converts them to “shares” that can be bought and sold much like a commodity on Wall Street.

“Fishermen in the South Atlantic have been overwhelmingly opposed to “catch share” programs, particularly in the snapper-grouper fishery, and rightly so since studies have shown that these programs provide no biological benefit to fisheries and destroy jobs. We very much support the proposed legislation’s requirement for referendum approval of any proposed catch share programs in the South Atlantic by a majority of the affected fishery permit holders,” Swatzel wrote.

The House Natural Resources Committee has held eight hearings over the past three years related to fisheries management and the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Members of the public interested in commenting on Hastings’ draft legislation can email magnusonstevens@mail.house.gov.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing 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.”

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Urgent -- there are looming threats to fishing in 2014!

We always hope for the best for a new year, but unfortunately commercial and recreational fishing interests face the looming threats in 2014 of more no-fishing zones, job killing “catch shares” schemes and congressional inaction on fixing the badly flawed Magnuson-Stevens Act, among others.

We need your financial support today to be able to effectively take on these issues and make not only 2014, but future years brighter for fishermen and related businesses!

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is being pushed hard by radical environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pew to approve over 1,000 sq. miles of additional no-fishing zones or Marine Protected Areas off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and east Florida even though the SAFMC’s own scientific advisors say there is no justification.

Click here and here for our stand against these MPAs.

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Council for Sustainable Fishing applauds proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms offered by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Hastings

MURRELLS INLET, SC – The Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishing interests, Monday applauded proposed legislation released by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) last week, which would offer significant flexibility reforms in reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law governing federal ocean fisheries.

“We are pleased with the direction of Congressman Hastings’ proposed legislation. For too long, commercial and recreational fishermen and the coastal economy have been unnecessarily impacted by the inflexible mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said. “Fishermen in the South Atlantic region have been suffering draconian cuts in landings for years, killing jobs, hurting the economy and unnecessarily restricting consumer access to fresh domestic seafood.”

The impacts of the 2007 version of the Act have been especially felt in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery, where from 2007 to 2012, fishing effort and landings from all sectors combined plunged by nearly 40 percent and 35 percent respectively.

Dubbed the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,’’ Hastings’ legislation would renew and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which technically expired on October 1st.

The legislation would, among other things, increase the time period for regional fishery management councils to end overfishing from 2 to 3 years, give the councils the flexibility to institute fishery rebuilding plans that extend beyond the existing 10 year mandate, and allow consideration of ecosystem changes and the economic needs of fishing communities in establishing annual catch limits.

A congressionally requested report from the National Research Council released in September said that more flexibility in the length of fishery rebuilding plans is needed. The report stated that there was a “…mismatch between the current prescriptions for rebuilding within a limited time frame and the uncertainties inherent in assessing and managing fisheries given data limitations and complex ecosystem dynamics where fishing is only one of many influences on fish populations.”

Hastings’ legislation would also require referendum approval of any proposed “catch share” programs in the South Atlantic by a majority of the affected fishery permit holders.

A catch share-based fishery management plan takes a fishermen’s landings and converts them to “shares” that can be bought and sold much like a commodity on Wall Street.

“Catch shares have been opposed by the overwhelming majority of fishermen in the South Atlantic and rightly so since studies have shown that these programs provide no biological benefit to fisheries and cause significant job losses,” Swatzel said. “Allowing permit holders the right to vote on the implementation of these schemes is the right thing to do.”

The House Natural Resources Committee has held eight hearings over the past three years related to fisheries management and the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Members of the public interested in commenting on Hastings’ draft legislation can email magnusonstevens@mail.house.gov.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing 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 website is Sustainablefishing.org

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The road to catch shares for charter and headboats

The road to “catch shares” for charter and headboat operators is being paved with an Environmental Defense Fund-backed pilot program approved by NOAA Fisheries this year for the Gulf of Mexico.

A catch share-based fishery management plan takes a fishermen’s landings and converts them to “shares” that can be bought and sold like a commodity on Wall Street.

Studies have shown that there is no biological benefit to catch share programs and that they hurt fishing communities by reducing jobs.

Sponsored by a Texas group called the Charter Fisherman’s Association, which is funded with $161,000.00 from EDF according to the latest EDF tax filing, the pilot program will allow a small number of headboats to be allocated “shares” in the gag grouper and red snapper fisheries for a two year period based on their reported 2011 landings. Participants are required to use Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), an expensive and intrusive vessel tracking system that has been overwhelmingly opposed in the South Atlantic.

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Council for Sustainable Fishing