More areas proposed closed to fishing

This week, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will begin seeking public input on Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan Amendment 36, which would establish spawning Special Management Zones or SMZs off the Carolinas, Georgia, and east Florida that would prohibit bottom fishing to protect deep-water snapper-grouper species.

While the idea of protecting spawning snapper and grouper is worthy, we have concerns about the establishment of these SMZs.

In the South Atlantic, there are already nearly 700 square miles of deep-water Marine Protected Areas or MPAs in which bottom fishing is prohibited and nearly 24,000 square miles of deep-water coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern or HAPCs where bottom fishing is substantially restricted by prohibitions on anchoring and bottom longlines.

The MPAs have been in place for six years without a plan, much less the funding, to evaluate their effectiveness in protecting snapper-grouper species, which is troubling.

Given the significant amount of existing protected areas for deep-water snapper and grouper, it is important that the spawning SMZs under consideration in Amendment 36 be kept as small as possible to reduce further adverse economic impacts on fishermen and coastal businesses.

The proposed SMZs must have a workable evaluation plan that can be funded and fishing for top-water species must be allowed.

Additionally, if you fish off South Carolina, the fishery council’s Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel this month recommended that the fishery council consider an expansion of the existing northern SC MPA into deeper water as an alternative to a proposed spawning SMZ in the popular Georgetown or Devil’s Hole. We support the advisory panel’s recommendation.

Click here for our written comments to the SAFMC on Amendment 36.

I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to comment on these SMZs via hearings, webinars or written comments. Click here for the details on how.

Thank you in advance for your efforts!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Sustainablefishing.org


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