SAFMC halts MPA effort, includes catch shares in top ten list

Acknowledging widespread opposition from fishermen and coastal businesses to its proposal for up to 1,000 sq. miles of additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas off the Carolinas, Georgia, and east Florida, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at its meeting last week halted the proposal, choosing instead to seek public input on using smaller Special Management Zones to protect some deep-water snapper-grouper spawning areas.

The SAFMC has been pushed hard for over two years by radical environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Pew to approve the proposed MPAs even though the SAFMC’s own scientific advisors have said there is no scientific justification.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing took a lead in pointing out the lack of scientific justification for the proposed MPAs and absence of any systematic evaluations of the existing deep-water MPAs.

The SAFMC will be conducting public scoping meetings on the SMZ concept for deep-water spawning areas, now called Snapper-Grouper Amendment 36, August 6-14 and will also be taking written comments. Click here for the scoping meeting schedule. Written comments can be emailed to mike.collins@safmc.net.

While protecting significant deep-water snapper-grouper spawning areas during spawning seasons has merit, the SAFMC must first ensure that there is an evaluation plan in place for the eight existing deep-water MPAs in the South Atlantic, totaling about 530 sq. miles, which were approved in 2009 to protect deep-water snapper-grouper species, particularly speckled hind and warsaw grouper.

In the five years these MPAs have existed, no systematic monitoring has occurred to evaluate their effectiveness. In fact 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 its execution or funding.

These existing MPAs may be doing an adequate job of protecting spawning areas and enhancing snapper-grouper populations, but until there is some systematic monitoring, there can be no way to quantify the results.

It is of great concern that at last week’s SAFMC meeting, when council members submitted their top three issues/solutions as part of the snapper-grouper fishery “visioning” process, catch shares made it into the top ten issues for consideration. Click here for the visioning workshop report.

It is very important for fishing interests to be vigilant about catch shares programs, voluntary or not, moving forward for fishery council consideration. Studies have shown that there is no biological benefit to catch share programs and that they hurt fishing communities by destroying jobs.

Click here for a report by Food and Water Watch about the “economic devastation” catch share programs have caused.

To be able to continue to fund an effective campaign for fishing interests and against unnecessary and unjustifiable MPAs or programs like catch shares that have no bearing on fishery sustainability, we need your financial support today!

Please join the CFSF as a member at the highest level that you can afford today by clicking here.

If you are already a member, please consider a higher membership level or a direct contribution.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

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