Important fishery council actions last week

Last week, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at its meeting in Hilton Head, SC disappointingly moved forward with more no-fishing zones and effectively deferred action on the snapper-grouper Vision Project until next month.

The fishery council approved the following no-fishing spawning Special Management Zones as the preferred alternatives in proposed Snapper-Grouper Amendment 36:

  • North Carolina: South Cape Lookout – 5 sq. miles
  • South Carolina: Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole – 3.1 sq. miles
  • Georgia: No sites
  • Florida: Warsaw Hole – 1 sq. mile

While it’s a significant accomplishment to have the total amount of proposed closed areas reduced from 70 sq. miles to about 9 sq. miles, there is still no justification for the action, which will unnecessarily hurt fishermen and fishing communities.

These SMZs are not a part of any fishery rebuilding plan required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act and replicate the purpose of the eight existing deep-water Marine Protected Areas (700 sq. miles) in protecting spawning snapper and grouper.

The existing MPAs have been in place for six years without a plan to evaluate their effectiveness in protecting spawning snapper-grouper. Additional closed areas cannot be justified until the SAFMC adopts such a plan and NOAA does an evaluation.

The fishery council and NOAA approved nearly 24,000 sq. miles of deep-water Coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern in which bottom fishing is substantially restricted by prohibitions on anchoring and bottom longlines, providing even more protections for spawning snapper-grouper.

Additionally, the fishery council approved a four-month grouper spawning season closure for all sectors that has been in effect for six years.

The SAFMC will continue to consider Amendment 36 at its December meeting, with final council action likely next March.

It was also a disappointment that the SAFMC did not remove job-killing catch shares, more closed fishing areas, and expensive and intrusive electronic vessel monitoring from the Vision Project, the long-term management strategy for snapper-grouper, particularly after the overwhelming opposition from stakeholders to these measures.

The SAFMC has promised the Vision Project would be “stakeholder-driven.”

According the stakeholder comments received by the SAFMC:

  • 97% oppose catch shares
  • 90% oppose use of closed fishing areas
  • 94% oppose use of electronic vessel monitoring

We’ll be at the special October SAFMC Vision Project meeting in Charleston, SC to urge the council to honor its promise of letting fishery stakeholders drive the direction of the project.

Thanks for your efforts to help on these important issues!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit fishing advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. We need your financial support to continue an effective advocacy campaign for fishing interests! Please join today by clicking here. Thank you!

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