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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