Efforts to limit the number of charter boats defeated

CHARLESTON, SC -- After a two-year battle with fishermen, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted 7 to 5 last week to stop its efforts to limit or reduce the number of charter and head boats in the snapper-grouper fishery.

“Given the overwhelming opposition and the fact that the SAFMC’s own lead scientist said there was no scientific justification for limiting or reducing the number of charter and head boats, it’s troubling that it has taken the SAFMC two years to vote this down and on a relatively close vote,” said Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel.

Over the two-year period, over 95 percent of the comments from fishery stakeholders were in opposition.

Opposition was broad and included groups such the National Association of Charterboat Operators, National Party Boat Owners Alliance, American Sportfishing Association, and Coastal Conservation Association.

"Limited entry programs create a stock market for permits and is the first step taken in creating catch share programs that destroy jobs," Swatzel said.

The SAFMC acknowledged in the proposed regulation that the number of for-hire snapper-grouper permits has been “fairly steady” for the last 10 years.

In August, the SAFMC’s lead scientist, John Hadley, admitted that there were no scientific findings to support limiting or reducing the number of charter and head boats.

Here’s an excerpt of what he said:

“So, there’s no scientific findings really, I mean, the only, as far as biological reasons there hasn’t been any biological science. As far as social science...you cannot do that [analysis] for the for-hire sector because we really don’t have essentially the logbook or record of how many people are fishing exactly. So, to succinctly answer your question, no, there are no scientific findings that have been identified to support the need, as far as quantitative need, to limit the amount of [for-hire] permits.”

Click here to listen to the audio clip.

“This is an issue we will have to keep an eye on,” Swatzel said.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing, based in Murrells Inlet, SC, is a nonprofit organization that advocates optimizing and sustaining fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen in South Atlantic region.

The CFSF website is Sustainablefishing.org.

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A victory

I wanted you to know that after a two-year battle, on a 7 to 5 vote the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council decided last week to stop its efforts to limit or reduce the number of charter and head boats in the snapper-grouper fishery.

My thanks to all of the fishery stakeholders who spoke out in opposition to for-hire limited entry. Over the two-year period, over 95 percent of the comments were in opposition.

Limited entry programs create a “stock market” for permits and is the first step taken in creating catch share programs that destroy jobs.

Given the overwhelming opposition and the fact that the SAFMC’s own lead scientist said there was no scientific justification for limiting or reducing the number of charter and head boats, it’s troubling that it has taken the SAFMC two years to vote this down and on a relatively close vote.

This is an issue we will have to keep an eye on.

More good news is that last week the SAFMC approved a 24 percent increase in the vermilion snapper annual catch limit for 2019, based on a recent stock assessment.

The bad news is that the SAFMC also approved a nearly 60 percent decrease in the total black sea bass ACL for 2019, even though black sea bass are not overfished or experiencing overfishing.

Because only about 40 percent of the total black sea bass ACL was landed in 2017, the reduction at least for 2019 may not be impactful, but after that it could have significant impacts.

That’s because the black sea bass ACL would actually decrease even further in 2020 and 2021.

For 2020 and 2021, based on current landings, the commercial ACL would be met in November and the fishery would close and the recreational fishery would come perilously close to closing, with about 90 percent of the ACLs projected to be landed.

On top of that, revised Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) landings estimates will be applied in December for black sea bass, vermilion snapper, blueline tilefish and red grouper. These new recreational catch estimates could have significant impacts on ACLs. We will have to see.

I hope this information is helpful.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. Please help us continue our fight for fishermen and fishing communities by clicking here and joining today. Already a member – please consider a higher membership level to help. Thank You!

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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SAFMC considers slashing black sea bass catch limit by nearly 60 percent

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is proposing to cut annual catch limits for black sea bass by almost 60 percent at an upcoming meeting in Charleston, SC, even though black sea bass are not overfished or experiencing overfishing.

At a September 3—October 5 meeting, the SAFMC will consider cutting the total black sea bass ACL by 57 percent for 2019 based on a recent stock assessment, which represents a nearly 1 million-pound reduction. Click here for the proposal.

Because only 36 percent of the total black sea bass ACL was landed in 2017, the reduction at least for 2019 may not be impactful, but after that it could have significant impacts.

That’s because the total black sea bass ACL would be cut even further in 2020 and 2021, with the 2021 ACL 63 percent lower than the current ACL.

For 2020 and 2021, based on current landings, the commercial ACL would be met in November and the fishery would close and the recreational fishery would come perilously close to closing, with about 90 percent of the ACLs projected to be landed.

Click here today to submit your comment to the SAFMC. The agenda item to click is "SG Abbreviated Framework 2." 

If that’s not enough, the black sea bass stock assessment and proposed ACLs are based on current Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) landings estimates, which are going to change this fall, up or down, for many species based on a recalibration caused by a change in MRIP survey methods. The SAFMC is scheduled to incorporate these revised MRIP numbers for black sea bass, vermilion snapper, blueline tilefish and red grouper at its meeting in December.

These new MRIP estimates could have very significant impacts on the black sea bass and other fisheries.

As you know, the black sea bass fishery is extremely important commercially and recreationally. The fishery is too important to rush in extreme ACL cuts.

We’ve asked the SAFMC to delay the proposed ACL cut for black sea bass until such time as the recalibrated MRIP landings estimates for black sea bass are available. Click here for our letter.

A delay would allow stakeholders more time to become aware of the proposed adjustments and for better scrutiny of the black sea bass stock assessment.

It’s important the SAFMC hears from fishery stakeholders on this extreme catch reduction.

Click here today and ask the SAFMC to delay any reductions to the black sea bass ACL until the new MRIP estimates are available. The agenda item to click is "SG Abbreviated Framework 2." Please submit your comments no later than October 3rd.

Thank you in advance for your efforts!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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SAFMC admits 'No scientific findings' to support limiting the number of charter and head boats

Click and listen to John Hadley, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council lead scientist for the proposed amendment to limit the number of charter and head boats in the snapper grouper fishery, admit on an August 6, 2018 webinar that there are no scientific findings or biological or social science to support limiting for-hire permits.

Incredibly, the SAFMC continues to push for-hire limited entry despite no scientific or biological justification. Limited entry will create a “stock market” for permits and is the first step taken in creating catch share programs that destroy jobs.

Click here today and tell the SAFMC you oppose for-hire limited entry. The deadline for comments is August 17th.

Act before it's too late.

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No to limiting charter and head boats, yes to reducing dead released fish

I wanted to follow up on the email that our Executive Director, Tom Swatzel, recently sent.

It’s very important to get your comments into the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council opposing efforts to limit or reduce the number of charter and headboats in the snapper-grouper fishery before it’s too late.

As Tom stated, there is no scientific justification for for-hire limited entry. The SAFMC even acknowledges in the proposed amendment that the number of for-hire snapper-grouper permits has been “fairly steady” for the last 10 years. Click here for the amendment.

Limited entry will create a “stock market” for permits and is the first step taken in creating catch share programs that destroy jobs.

I urge you to click here today and tell the SAFMC that you are strongly opposed to for-hire limited entry in Snapper-Grouper Amendment 47. Please make your comments no later than August 17th.

Click here to read the comments.

Additionally, the SAFMC is conducting webinars on Amendment 47 in which you can comment on the proposal. The first is this Monday, August 6th, and the others are on August 9th and 14th, all are at 6 pm. Click here to register for a webinar.

Let me switch gears and ask you to support a different SAFMC snapper-grouper amendment.

Amendment 29 is about “best fishing practices,” practices that help reduce bycatch and dead-discards caused by hook damage or barotrauma, such as the use of circle hooks, descending devices and venting tools. Click here for the amendment.

We support the purpose of Amendment 29 and urge you to submit favorable comments to the SAFMC by clicking here. The deadline for comments is also August 17th.

Click here to read the Amendment 29 comments.

Webinars on the amendment will be held on August 7th and 8th. Click here to register.

Thank you in advance for your efforts on these important matters!

Wayne Mershon
President
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. Please help us continue our fight for fishermen and fishing communities by clicking here and joining today. Already a member – please consider a higher membership level to help. Thank You!

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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Stop efforts to reduce the number of charter and headboats

I’m sure you’ve seen those horror movies where despite repeated attempts to kill the monster, it always comes back to life and wreaks havoc.

Charter and headboat operators are now living one of these horror movies as the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council once again moves forward with limiting the number of for-hire snapper-grouper permits, this time through Snapper-Grouper Amendment 47.

And now the SAFMC is not just talking about limiting the number of charter and headboats, they are now talking about decreasing the number. Click here to read the amendment.

The SAFMC is now taking written comments on the amendment. I urge you to click here today and tell the SAFMC that you are strongly opposed to for-hire limited entry. Please make your comments no later than August 17th.

Click here to read the comments.

The SAFMC keeps pushing limited-entry despite the fact that the number of snapper-grouper for-hire permits has remained virtually unchanged over the last 10 years and for-hire fishing effort in federal waters is 22 percent below the effort in 2007.

This has nothing to do with fishery sustainability. A limited-entry fishery is the first step toward a catch share fishery, one that will set up a “stock market” for permits.

Just click here to read the comments from the National Association of Charterboat Operators, which describes the for-hire limited entry disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and states that the “limited entry program has resulted in an additional stock market for fisheries” and is “working to eliminate for hire vessel owners from the industry.”

And now the SAFMC is considering not just limiting, but decreasing the number of charter and headboats.

Please click here today to access the SAFMC online comment form and tell them you’re opposed to for-hire limited entry. These “on the record” comments are crucial. Please make your comments no later than August 17th.

Thank you in advance for your efforts!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. Please help us continue our fight for fishermen and fishing communities by clicking here and joining today. Already a member – please consider a higher membership level to help. Thank You!

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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A victory for fishermen and science

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill, the law that governs the management of federal offshore fisheries, on a 222-193 vote.

Our thanks to the Representatives who voted for the bill.

Called the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” the legislation provides regional fishery management councils with a more practical, science-based timeframe for ending overfishing and establishing fishery rebuilding plans than the existing arbitrary, one-size fits all deadlines.

Click here to read the bill and here to see how your Representative voted.

The legislation will give regional fishery councils the flexibility to institute fishery rebuilding plans based on a stock’s biology, not on the existing arbitrary 10-year deadline. This is in response to a 2015 congressional report from the National Research Council that said more flexibility in the length of fishery rebuilding plans is needed.

The legislation substitutes “depleted” for “overfished” in an acknowledgement that the decline of stocks can be attributed to environmental factors beyond fishing effort and allows consideration of ecosystem changes and the economic needs of fishing communities in establishing annual catch limits.

It requires referendum approval of any proposed “catch share” programs in the South Atlantic region by a majority of the affected fishery permit holders and bans the use of Exempted Fishing Permits to establish catch share programs like the 2017 back-door effort by South Atlantic fishery council insiders to establish a “pilot” snapper-grouper catch share program.

Catch share programs tend to benefit large corporate fleets that can buy up shares and hurt small fishermen who cannot. Studies have shown that catch share programs hurt fishing communities by destroying jobs and don’t provide any biological benefit to fisheries.

The House vote is a great victory for commercial and recreational fishing interests and science-based fishery management, but our challenge now is to get a companion bill through the Senate.

Thank you for your support!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit fishing advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. We need your financial support to continue an effective advocacy campaign for fishing interests! Please join today by clicking here. Thank you!

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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

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. Please help us continue our fight against catch shares and for fishermen and fishing communities by clicking here and joining today. Already a member – please consider a higher membership level to help. Thank You!

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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Threat of limiting the number of charter and head boats is back

It's back.

After delaying for several months, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will once again consider limiting the number of charter and head boats in the snapper-grouper fishery when it meets next week in Atlantic Beach, NC.

This despite overwhelming opposition from fishery stakeholders, a plunge in charter and head boat fishing effort and effectively no growth in snapper-grouper for-hire permits.

To stop this effort to pick winners and losers in the for-hire fishery, one that will set up a “stock market” for permits and could be a first step toward for-hire catch shares, please send comments to the SAFMC today opposing the snapper-grouper “For-Hire Moratorium Amendment” by clicking here. Please make your comments no later than Thursday, December 7th.

Click here for the limited entry amendment.

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 just 188,114 trips in 2016.

Most recently for-hire trips fell by 2.4 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Click here to see the graph.

From 2008 to 2015, the number of for-hire snapper-grouper permits actually fell by 4 percent. Since 2008, the only real growth in the number of permits has been since the control date or cutoff for future limited entry was announced last year, spawning a 6.5 percent jump in permits from fishermen who didn’t want to be left out.

This has nothing to do with fishery sustainability, and everything to do with picking winners and losers in the charter and head boat business.

I urge you to click here today to access the SAFMC online comment form and tell them you’re opposed to the For-Hire Moratorium Amendment. These “on the record” comments are crucial. Please make your comments no later than Thursday, December 7th.

Thank you in advance for your efforts!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. Please help us continue our fight against catch shares and for fishermen and fishing communities by clicking here and joining today. Already a member – please consider a higher membership level to help. Thank You!

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Red snapper season announced

red_snapper.jpg

On October 27th, NOAA Fisheries announced the red snapper fishery openings for 2017.

The recreational fishery will open on the following dates:
November 3, 4, and 5
November 10, 11, and 12
Bag Limit: 1 fish per person/day
Size Limit: No minimum size limit

The commercial fishery will open:
November 2
Trip Limit: 75 lb daily trip limit
Size Limit: No minimum size limit

For more information about the season, click here for the news release.

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