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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