A disappointing vote to limit charter and head boats

Since December, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has gotten 246 on the record comments opposing limiting the number of charter and head boats and just 5 comments in favor.

Yet last week the SAFMC voted 9 to 3 to move forward with limiting the number of charter and head boats in the snapper-grouper fishery. This despite the overwhelming opposition and no scientific justification: there has been a 40 percent plunge in for-hire fishing effort since 2007 and no growth in for-hire permits.

This is a disappointing vote that will start the process of picking winners and losers in the for-hire fishery, and could set up a “stock market” for permits and a step toward for-hire catch shares. We’ll remain vigilant in fighting against limited entry.

Red snapper and cobia were other big topics discussed last week by the SAFMC and there is some better news.

NOAA Fisheries has gone on record that the SAFMC has taken sufficient action to end overfishing of red snapper, so extreme measures such as closing other snapper-grouper fisheries or imposing more closed fishing areas to protect red snapper are off the table now.

The problem acknowledged at the SAFMC meeting is that current landings and discard data on red snapper are so poor they aren’t sufficient to be able to calculate an Annual Catch Limit, so efforts to have a 2018 season will focus on developing a way to calculate a more accurate catch limit.

Catch data problems and jurisdiction were discussed with the cobia fishery, which is closed to recreational fishermen in federal waters.

The SAFMC requested NOAA Fisheries recalculate the recreational landings estimates for 2015 and 2016 as reported through the Marine Recreational Information Program because of concerns about accuracy, especially off North Carolina and Virginia.

Consideration is being given to transferring cobia management authority to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which would allow management flexibility between the states.

A stock assessment of cobia will take place next year.

I hope this information is helpful. We’ll continue to stand up for fishermen and fishing communities.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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