Working to prevent a grouper closure and catch shares

Last week, I attended the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in Charleston, SC and wanted to make you aware of some important decisions made by the council.

While the council approved increased Annual Catch Limits for a number of unassessed snapper-grouper species such as gray triggerfish (commercial and recreational ACLs will increase by about 40,000 lbs. and 51,000 lbs. respectively next year), the council was on the verge of slashing the overall scamp grouper ACL by over 40 percent, which had the potential of hurting fishermen, particularly in the Carolinas.

Fortunately, we were able to make an effective case individually with council members and during the public hearing that the proposed scamp ACL was unreasonably low and that an ACL should be approved that was unlikely to result in the closure of the fishery. The council approved the ACL we asked for on a 10 to 1 vote.

The council moved forward with Snapper-Grouper Amendment 36, which would establish spawning Special Management Zones that would prohibit bottom fishing.

You may recall that in June, after an outcry from fishermen and coastal businesses led by the CFSF, the council voted to halt its proposal for up to 1,000 sq. miles of additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas that would have prohibited bottom fishing, choosing instead to seek public input on using smaller SMZs to protect some deep-water snapper-grouper spawning areas.

The council decided to establish the following areas for analysis as potential spawning SMZs:
North Carolina: “Malchase Wreck” and “780 Bottom”
South Carolina: “Devil’s Hole 3” (Georgetown Hole)
Georgia: “St. Simons Extension 2” and “Georgia MPA Reconfigure”
East Florida: “Warsaw Hole” and “Daytona Steeples”

We have concerns about whether the spawning SMZs are necessary given that existing deep-water MPAs are very likely protecting spawning fish; over 800 sq. miles of deep-water coral habitat protection, prohibiting bottom fishing, was just established; and a January to April spawning season closure already exists for most grouper species.

We’ll continue to closely monitor the development of these SMZs and work to minimize their impacts on fishermen.

And finally, the council will meet October 14-16 in Charleston in a “visioning” workshop to continue development of a long-term vision for managing the snapper-grouper fishery.

In June, when council members submitted their top three issues/solutions as part of the visioning process, catch shares made it into the top ten issues for consideration.

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

This effort to monitor and influence the outcome of SAFMC fishery management decisions takes time and money. That’s why 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’re already a member, please consider a higher membership level or a direct contribution. Help us continue our efforts on behalf of fishing interests.

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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