Fishery council credibility is at stake

Last year, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council made a big splash about wanting to pursue a snapper-grouper fishery Vision Project to create a long-term plan for the fishery that would be “stakeholder-driven,” resulting in “a vision that is shared between the Council and all stakeholders in the South Atlantic.”

In February through April of this year, the SAFMC conducted 26 “port meetings” to seek stakeholder input into the Vision Project. Last month the SAFMC held a Vision workshop to “move forward with the input received during the port meetings” by drafting long-term management strategies for the fishery.

The draft Vision management strategies were publicly revealed last week and incredibly they included catch shares, expensive Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), and more no-fishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) -- measures vehemently opposed by the vast majority of stakeholders for years through the council amendment process and more recently through the Vision port meetings.

We’re shocked and disappointed to see the SAFMC depart so dramatically from the stakeholder-driven, shared vision approach that the council has held itself out as supporting.

Additionally, it seems the document has been drafted to be anything but direct with stakeholders about the inclusion of catch shares as a management strategy.

The phrase “catch shares” is nowhere to be found in the document. Instead creative code-speak is used to describe the strategy throughout the document: “sector share management system,” “individual quota management system,” “individual quota programs,” “sector share programs/cooperatives,” “individual quotas,” and “allocations by permit.”

The approach the SAFMC is taking with these Vision management strategies hurts the credibility of the council with already skeptical stakeholders and jeopardizes the Vision Project as currently defined.

Next week the SAFMC will consider these draft management strategies at its meeting in New Bern, NC.

We’re urging the council to refocus on achieving a stakeholder-driven, shared vision of snapper-grouper management strategies - as promised - by eliminating catch shares, VMS, and additional MPAs as Vision Project management strategies.

The credibility of both the Vision Project and the SAFMC is at stake.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director

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