Not listening to fishermen

Do you think fishery managers listen to fishermen?

After last week’s South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting you have to wonder.

A proposal to limit the number of charter and head boats that could fish in the South Atlantic was met with overwhelming opposition by fishermen.

There were 169 written comments against the proposal and just 3 for it.

Click here to see the comments.

Yet, the SAFMC didn’t listen to fishermen and kill the proposal. Instead it voted 9 to 3 to develop a “white paper” to continue to explore charter and head boat limited entry options for the snapper-grouper fishery.

Since the 2007 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which mandated very conservative Annual Catch Limits for all fisheries, “for-hire” fishing effort in the South Atlantic has plunged by nearly 40 percent from a peak of 306,441 angler trips in 2007 to 192,781 trips in 2015.

Click here to see the graph.

Additionally, this year there were only six more snapper-grouper for-hire permits issued from North Carolina through east Florida to Key West, than in 2009.

It would be one thing if for-hire limited entry was about fishery sustainability, but it’s not.

This seems to be more and more about picking winners and losers in the for-hire fishery that will set up a “stock market” for permits and not about listening to the overwhelming opposition from fishermen.

This is exactly what happened in the Gulf of Mexico with for-hire limited entry. Click here to read an email from the National Association of Charterboat Operators to the SAFMC that describes the limited entry disaster in the Gulf.

As this issue moves forward, we’ll continue to fight limited entry and hope that the SAFMC starts listening to fishermen.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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