SAFMC decides for now to not limit the number of head and charter boats

Some good news.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at their meeting this month decided, at least for now, to not move forward with limiting the number of charter and head boats in the snapper-grouper fishery.

The comments received by the SAFMC were overwhelmingly against limited entry. My thanks to all who submitted comments.

One of the important points we made was that the SAFMC really doesn’t know what permitted snapper-grouper charter boats are catching or targeting, whether they are fishing in state or federal waters or even if permit holders are not fishing at all and simply banking the permit. The current Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) survey of charter boats is just not very good, which the SAFMC has acknowledged by moving to required electronic reporting next year.

The 2016 data from the South Carolina charter boat reporting program, the only state in the region that requires for-hire reporting, shows that 60 percent of the trips by charter boats with federal snapper-grouper for-hire permits were within three miles of shore, in state waters, and effectively didn’t target federal snapper-grouper species.

This is the kind of information the SAFMC needs region-wide to make an informed decision about for-hire limited entry and it will get it with the upcoming federal charter boat electronic reporting requirement.

While the SAFMC is continuing to study for-hire limited entry, we hope any further consideration waits until after a couple of years of region-wide charter boat reporting data is collected. The SAFMC has an obligation under the law to use the “best scientific information available” in making fishery management decision.

For information about other SAFMC actions at the meeting, please click here.

I hope this information is helpful.

I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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