CFSF President Wayne Mershon’s comments to the SAFMC in Wilmington, NC opposing additional no-fishing zones

December 5, 2013

I’m Wayne Mershon, President of the newly formed Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit advocacy group of commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealer and wholesalers, restaurateurs, chefs, and others that economically rely on fishing.

I want to address the proposed Snapper-Grouper Amendment 17 and the Marine Protected Area (MPA) issue.

I do applaud the Snapper-Grouper Committee’s decision to postpone scoping for Amendment 17 until August, and hope the full council will approve that motion.

Because of the intense and widespread opposition to any further deep-water MPAs, having public scoping for Amendment 17 in late January, in close proximity to seeking public input into the council’s snapper-grouper Visioning effort, would no doubt poison the well as far as perception of the Visioning process and likely result in a lot of negative, nonproductive input.

But the bottom line on Amendment 17 is that the council simply does not have the information or scientific justification to move forward with any additional MPAs.

Again, to repeat what your Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) advised about any additional MPAs in its April 2012 meeting report:

”Based on the current info, the SSC cannot determine what benefits an additional closure will provide to the stocks of speckled hind and warsaw grouper, what amount of area closure is necessary to reduce bycatch mortality, or if additional closed areas are even necessary. Additional monitoring and data needs to be collected in order to be able to conduct an assessment of these species.”

The council doesn’t even have a definable goal it can state for Amendment 17.

In that same report, the SSC also advised:

“Given all of the current regulations that affect other snapper grouper species, it is possible overfishing for speckled hind and Warsaw grouper is no longer occurring. An analysis of the regulations for co‐occurring species and the reduction in landings/effort for those species may provide some data on how much bycatch of speckled hind and Warsaw grouper has been reduced.”

The recently completed SEDAR 36 stock assessment of snowy grouper, a co-occurring species, indicates that that stock is rebuilding and no longer experiencing overfishing.

Additionally, as I stated at the September council meeting, from 2009 to 2012, overall snapper-grouper fishing effort fell by 40 percent and landings fell by nearly 35 percent from peaks in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

The rebuilding of snowy grouper stocks and the huge overall reductions in snapper-grouper fishery effort and landings has had to have a positive effect on speckled hind and warsaw grouper stocks and bycatch reduction.

As it states in the draft Amendment 17 scoping document, the recent Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation Observer Project "concluded the bycatch level of speckled hind/warsaw grouper was too low to generate an estimate of bycatch for the South Atlantic commercial snapper grouper fishery."

I urge this council to listen to its scientific advisors and gather the information necessary to quantify the actual stock status of speckled hind and warsaw grouper and the effectiveness of the existing deep-water MPAs before any further consideration of additional MPAs.

Thank you.

Do you like this post?
Council for Sustainable Fishing