David Nelson: Deep-water species are rebuilding in a healthy manner

October 28, 2013

To: South Atlantic Council

Soon this Council will be considering an expansion of MPA's to protect the Warsaw and Speckled Hind.  Neither of these two species have a stock assessment and the data is extremely limited mainly because the historical exploitation rate of these two species has been relatively low. 

In the entire history of the Warsaw Grouper and Speckled Hind fisheries, the amount of exploitation of these two species has been limited by a number of factors.  The need or desire to fish depths beyond 150 feet did not begin until the late 1970's as the red snapper fishery was still very strong inshore.  By the late 1970's and early 80's the bottom long line fishery developed and then was banned in 1992.  The fishery that is tied directly to these two species is the Snowy Grouper fishery and both were limited bycatch in this fishery.  At no point from the 1970's to the late 1990's, were these two species target species (only bycatch) for any fisherman at any point in the South Atlantic and then their possession was banned all together.  Both of these are the reasons the data is so limited.  

The most recent stock assessment on Snowy Grouper shows that the stock is not experiencing overfishing. On page 27 of SEDAR 36 it says: 

"The MCB analysis indicates that these estimates of stock and fishery status are robust, but also reveals some uncertainty in the conclusions. Of all MCB runs, 89% were in qualitative agreement that the stock has not yet recovered (SSB2012/SSBMSY <1.0), and 76% that the stock is not experiencing overfishing (F2010 –2012/FMSY <1.0)."

With no overfishing of snowy grouper it is a certainty that the claimed "imperiled" status of Warsaw and Speckled Hind is misplaced, as their protections are far beyond that of the Snowy Grouper and have been in place for much longer.  Therefore the need for more and expanded MPA's to protect them are not necessary.  

I would hope that this Council would recognize success stories like Snowy Grouper, when they present themselves and see the common thread between the Snowy, Speckled Hind, and Warsaw.  All three of which are rebuilding in a healthy manner. 

Thank you,

David Nelson

Capt. David Nelson, of Port Orange, FL comes from a family that has been charter and commercial fishing the waters off Daytona Beach since 1954. He is teaches Marine Science at Spruce Creek High School.


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