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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Help fishermen and the coastal economy by joining today

We need your help today!

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

Just last Thursday, Council for Sustainable Fishing President Wayne Mershon and I attended the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in Wilmington, NC to oppose 600 sq. miles of additional no-fishing zones or Marine Protected Areas that are being proposed off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and east Florida without any scientific justification. Click here for Wayne’s comments to the SAFMC.

The fishing industry has been impacted by an unprecedented growth in job killing regulations affecting the region’s coastal economy, and more are on the way unless we effectively unite to fight back!

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GEORGETOWN TIMES | Swatzel named director of Council for Sustainable Fishing

“The mid-Atlantic fishery has gotten a boost with the formation of an advocacy group with its roots in Murrells Inlet, and the group has lost no time in praising area lawmakers.

Tom Swatzel, a Murrells Inlet businessman and Republican activist, has been named executive director of the Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit still in its formative stages.

On Wednesday, Swatzel praised Reps. Stephen Goldfinch, R-District 108 and Peter McCoy, R-District 115 for their letter to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council opposing additional no-fishing zones in the South Atlantic.

‘We thank Reps. Goldfinch and McCoy for standing up for fishing interests and the coastal economy and their recognition that there is simply not enough scientific information to justify any additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas in the South Atlantic,’ Swatzel wrote.” »» Read More

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CFSF President Wayne Mershon’s comments to the SAFMC in Wilmington, NC opposing additional no-fishing zones

December 5, 2013

I’m Wayne Mershon, President of the newly formed Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit advocacy group of commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealer and wholesalers, restaurateurs, chefs, and others that economically rely on fishing.

I want to address the proposed Snapper-Grouper Amendment 17 and the Marine Protected Area (MPA) issue.

I do applaud the Snapper-Grouper Committee’s decision to postpone scoping for Amendment 17 until August, and hope the full council will approve that motion.

Because of the intense and widespread opposition to any further deep-water MPAs, having public scoping for Amendment 17 in late January, in close proximity to seeking public input into the council’s snapper-grouper Visioning effort, would no doubt poison the well as far as perception of the Visioning process and likely result in a lot of negative, nonproductive input.

But the bottom line on Amendment 17 is that the council simply does not have the information or scientific justification to move forward with any additional MPAs.

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SUN NEWS | Collaborating for sustainability in fishing industry

“This is a union of a pair of groups that have often been at odds over the years when it comes sharing the fish that are harvested from the sea, and it’s a union that is for the common good.

The newly formed Council for Sustainable Fishing combines recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen in a concerted effort to work together as a watchdog of federal fisheries management in the South Atlantic Region.

…The Council for Sustainable Fishing’s focus is clear right in its name – push for sustainable fishing for recreational and commercial fishermen alike, in order to provide fresh seafood for the public and to enable seafood related businesses to provide needed support for the economy in coastal areas, without negatively impacting fish stocks.

In short, the group is striving to maximize catch limits for fishermen but at limits that would ensure fish stocks are at healthy levels.” »» Read More

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Council for Sustainable Fishing applauds SC Reps. Goldfinch and McCoy for stance against additional South Atlantic no-fishing zones

MURRELLS INLET, SC – The Council for Sustainable Fishing, a regional advocacy group for recreational and commercial fishing interests, Wednesday applauded South Carolina state Reps. Stephen Goldfinch, R-District 108 and Peter McCoy, R-District 115 for their letter to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council opposing additional no-fishing zones in the South Atlantic.

“We thank Reps. Goldfinch and McCoy for standing up for fishing interests and the coastal economy and their recognition that there is simply not enough scientific information to justify any additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas in the South Atlantic,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said.

In their December 2nd letter to the SAFMC, Goldfinch and McCoy state that their districts thrive “on commercial and recreational fishing, and these excessive measure threaten our ways of life and financial stability…Because of the lack of credible science and data, we see no need at this time for the council to continue its MPA initiatives under Amendment 17…”

Click here for the Goldfinch and McCoy letter.

The letter from Goldfinch and McCoy is the latest from elected officials opposing the MPA plan. Last month, Congressman Walter Jones, R-NC, said in a letter to the SAFMC: “I am writing to respectfully request that you immediately cease work on Amendment 17 to establish new, permanent marine protected areas…This amendment is simply not justified by the science. It would also unnecessarily hurt commercial and recreational fishermen when they are already struggling financially.”

Click here for the Jones letter.

The SAFMC is pursuing additional MPAs, encompassing nearly 600 square miles of ocean, in an effort to reduce the possible 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 is moving forward with the plan despite the April 2012 report of its own Scientific and Statistical Committee which said: “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.”

NOAA Southeastern Regional Fisheries Administrator Roy Crabtree, a member of the SAFMC, said at a March 2012 SAFMC meeting: “We don’t really right now know really what the statuses of these stocks are, and it’s unclear to us exactly what needs to be done to protect them.”

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.”

In 2009, eight deep-water MPAs, totaling nearly 800 square miles, were implemented in the South Atlantic to protect deep-water snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind and warsaw grouper.

Since these MPAs have existed, no systematic monitoring has occurred to evaluate their effectiveness. 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 the plan’s execution or funding.

“The SAFMC needs to listen to own scientific advisors and work to ensure that adequate monitoring and data collection is done so the stock status of these species is better defined before hurting recreational and commercial fishermen and the coastal economy of the Southeastern states with onerous no-fishing zones that have no basis in fact,” Swatzel said.

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WPDE News | Murrells Inlet man to head new Council for Sustainable Fishing

"The Council for Sustainable Fishing announced its formation Tuesday, as an organization committed to advocate for commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region.

The non-profit group's executive director is Tom Swatzel, a name familiar to many on the Grand Strand. He previously served as a representative to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council as well as a Georgetown County councilman." Click the video below for more.

 

 

 

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South Atlantic commercial and recreational fishing interests, seafood consumers form advocacy group, Tom Swatzel tapped as executive director

MURRELLS INLET, SC – A unique multistate combination of commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region Tuesday announced that they had united to form a nonprofit advocacy group called the Council for Sustainable Fishing to better their plight with federal fisheries management and had hired Tom Swatzel, a former regional fishery management council member and issue advocacy and political veteran as executive director.

“We came to realize that it’s in everyone’s best interest, both the commercial and recreational sectors and consumers, to band together in a united effort to optimize and sustain fishing opportunities through increased catch limits, more accurate and timely fishery management data, and to fight unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations,” Council for Sustainable Fishing President and Murrells Inlet seafood dealer Wayne Mershon said. “The fishery allocation issues between commercial and recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic are fairly well settled, so there is no reason to not work together in an effort to increase overall annual catch limits, which benefits all fishermen, the coastal economy, and helps ensure more stable seafood availability to consumers.”

“We’re very pleased to have landed Tom Swatzel as our executive director. He’s experienced with federal fisheries management policy in the South Atlantic and has a very effective track record in the public policy and political arena,” Mershon said.

“It’s a privilege for me to work for such a forward thinking group of fishing industry leaders. It takes a united effort of all fishing interests to impact the federal fisheries management process and its bureaucracy,” Swatzel said. “The timing is good because there are issues looming for the industry, like the plan for more no-fishing zones being considered by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council this week, that could have a devastating impact on the industry and the coastal economy.”

At its meeting in Wilmington, NC this week, the SAFMC is considering approving additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas to protect speckled hind and warsaw grouper, despite advice from its science advisors that there is no scientific justification for the MPAs and the opposition of the fishery council’s snapper-grouper advisory panel.

Click here for more information.

Swatzel served for six years as a South Carolina representative on the SAFMC, which is responsible for the management of federal fisheries off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida to Key West.

He has also served on the SAFMC Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel, Winyah Bay-North Inlet National Estuarine Research Reserve Advisory Board, NOAA Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey-- For-Hire Constituent Review Panel, and the Atlantic Coast Cooperative (Fisheries) Statistics Program, For-Hire Subcommittee.

In the late 1980s, Swatzel founded the Freedom to Fish Coalition, a statewide South Carolina issue advocacy group that fought fishery regulations.

In 2003, he founded South Carolinians for Responsible Government, a Columbia based statewide issue advocacy group that supports limited government and education reforms like school choice.

He was elected to the Georgetown County (SC) Council in 1994 and served two terms.

Swatzel’s firm, Swatzel Strategies, provides political campaign consulting and management to clients in several states.

A native of Hickory, North Carolina, Swatzel received a degree in marine biology from the University Of North Carolina at Wilmington.

He worked at Capt. Dick’s Marina in Murrells Inlet for 34 years, serving in a variety of capacities: deckhand, fish cleaner, head boat captain, biologist, and eventually chief executive officer.

In addition to Mershon, the founding CFSF board members are Langdon Gunter, recreational fishermen from Myrtle Beach, SC; Ann Shipman, Business Development Manager and Center of the Plate Protein Specialist with Sysco, 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.

The CFSF website is at Sustainablefishing.org

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Restaurateur - Chef Mike Lata: “Beyond the fisherman and the dock, there are a lot of people relying on fresh local seafood to prosper.”

A transcript of Mike Lata’s testimony before the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in Charleston, SC on September 19, 2013.

My name is Mike Lata. I own a couple restaurants here in town and I was hoping to share a few thoughts with you. Thank you for hearing my opinion. We opened a restaurant called “Fig” about ten years ago and have been selling lots of seafood over those ten years. It has been obvious to me that the people that come to Charleston want to taste and eat the local seafood.

In those ten years we developed many relationships with some great people here in the low country to the point where ten years later -- a few national awards. And with all eyes on the Charleston food scene, we were inspired to open a restaurant called “The Ordinary”, which was a salute to our local fishermen and oystermen and crabbers, et cetera.

I am kind of new to this; politics, if you will. But what has become apparent to me is that the regulations and the decisions that go into changing the regulations affects more than just the fishermen. Now that we have this national reputation as a food town and I have this seafood restaurant called “The Ordinary”, people are traveling from all over the country, as near as these drive-in communities of Charlotte and Atlanta, but as far as everyone on the west coast to have the food in Charleston and taste what we do. 

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Council for Sustainable Fishing