Be heard on proposed fishery regulations

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is keeping fishermen busy this summer with public comment meetings.

Last month, there was a series of hearings/listening stations on the snapper-grouper Vision Project, which included overwhelmingly opposed measures such as catch shares, electronic monitoring, and more closed fishing areas.

Next week, the SAFMC will start public hearings (close to final action) and conduct scoping (initial stages of development) on four snapper-grouper amendments and will also continue to take comments on the Vision Project.

Public hearings are being held on these amendments:

Amendment 36 would put in place hundreds of square miles of spawning Special Management Zones from North Carolina through east Florida to Key West, in which bottom fishing would be prohibited.

This despite nearly 700 square miles of existing deep-water Marine Protected Areas in which bottom fishing is prohibited, and nearly 24,000 square miles of existing deep-water coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern in which bottom fishing is substantially restricted by prohibitions on anchoring and bottom longlines. There is no plan in place to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of these existing closed areas, much less any new areas.

Amendment 16 would bring some relief to the November-April commercial black sea bass pot (trap) fishery closure, which has been forced due to NOAA concerns about possible right whale entanglement in pot gear -- this despite there being no documented instance of whales ever being entangled in the gear.

The amendment would allow the use of pot gear November-April in areas outside the areas defined as right whale critical habitat and would require gear modifications such as lighter buoy lines and weak links.

Scoping is being conducted on these amendments:

Amendment 23 includes actions to modify the fishing year start date for the commercial golden tilefish hook and line sector; increase the recreational bag limit for black sea bass; and establish a commercial trip limit for the Jacks Complex.

Amendment 37 would divide hogfish into two stocks: North Carolina-Georgia and East Florida-Key West, establish annual catch limits and commercial and recreational management measures for each stock, and a rebuilding plan for the Florida stock.

Here’s the hearing schedule for next week:

All are 4 to 7 pm.

Monday, August 10:
Amend. 36 -- Hilton Garden Inn, 5265 International Boulevard, N. Charleston, SC 29418

Tuesday, August 11:
Amend. 16 -- Holiday Inn Express, 722 Highway 17, Little River, SC 29566

Wednesday, August 12:
Amend. 36 -- Murrells Inlet Community Center, 4462 Murrells Inlet Road, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Amend. 16 -- Comfort Suites, 130 Workshop Lane, Jacksonville, NC 28546

Thursday, August 13:
Amend. 36 -- N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, 5285 Highway 70 West, Morehead City, NC 28557

On Monday, August 10th at 6 pm a webinar will be held to scope Amendments 23 and 37.

Click here for the complete hearing schedule, webinar registration, and amendment details.

Written comments can be emailed to mike.collins@safmc.net (reference the name of the amendment in the subject line), faxed to (843) 769-4520 or mailed to Robert Mahood, Executive Director, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405.

I urge you to be heard on these important actions.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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