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

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