Plan to privatize snapper-grouper fishery ownership off southeastern states blasted by fishing advocacy group

MURRELLS INLET, SC – A proposed plan by federal fishery managers to privatize ownership of the snapper-grouper fishery from North Carolina to Key West, Florida by taking a fishermen’s historical landings and converting them into “catch shares” of the fishery that can be bought and sold like a commodity on Wall Street is being blasted by an advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishermen.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which is responsible for the management of federal fisheries in the Atlantic off the southeastern states, has proposed the controversial programs for commercial and charter boats in its long-range management plan for the snapper-grouper fishery called the Vision Project. Public hearings on the plan start this week.

“Studies have shown that catch share programs provide no biological benefit to fisheries and hurt fishing communities by destroying jobs. These programs tend to benefit large corporate fleets that can buy up shares and hurt small fishermen who cannot,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said. “Fishermen from all sectors have made it very clear to the SAFMC that they overwhelmingly oppose private ownership of the fishery. The fishery council needs to listen to these fishermen as promised.”

The SAFMC launched the Vision Project last year by conducting 26 “port meetings” throughout the region seeking fishery stakeholder input into the project, stating that the project would be “stakeholder-driven.”

The SAFMC has acknowledged the meetings produced overwhelming opposition to catch shares, but decided to include them in the plan any way.

Swatzel, a former SAFMC member, says he’s disappointed at the fishery council’s unwillingness to listen to fishermen’s opposition to catch shares, which has been longstanding.

“Prior SAFMC efforts in 2011 to implement catch shares for the snapper-grouper fishery were met with overwhelming opposition and had to be withdrawn, so the fishery council should know better. They need to honor their promise of a stakeholder-driven plan and stop efforts to privatize the fishery. The SAFMC’s credibility is at stake,” Swatzel said. “This plan is supposed to be driven by fishery stakeholders, not special interest groups like the Environmental Defense Fund, which has spent millions lobbying for catch shares.”

Swatzel says the SAFMC has purposely not used the controversial phrase “catch shares” in the plan, but instead has used less understood terminology for catch shares such as “sector share management system,” “individual quota management system,” “individual quota programs,” “sector share programs/cooperatives,” “individual quotas,” and “allocations by permit.”

“It’s very troubling the SAFMC would resort to using code-speak for catch shares instead of being up front with fishermen about the fact that catch share programs are indeed in the plan,” Swatzel said.

Catch share programs in New England and California have been called “failures” in media reports. According to the San Luis Obispo, CA Tribune, the director of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization said “‘The catch share system is probably the worst thing that ever happened to the fishing industry.’”

Studies and reports by the Lenfest Ocean Program, Center for Investigative Reporting, and Food and Water Watch say that catch share programs provide no biological benefit to fisheries.

“It would be one thing if catch shares improved fishery sustainability, but they don’t. The net effect of catch shares is to reallocate fish from small fishermen to large, reducing jobs and in many cases the availability of fresh catch in local markets,” Swatzel said. “Catch share programs for charter boats will reduce availability, hurting fishing destinations.”

Swatzel says other measures in the plan such as requiring electronic tracking devices for all fishing boats and more closed fishing areas are widely opposed by fishermen and should be dropped by the SAFMC.

The Council for Sustainable Fishing 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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Long-time NC fishing leader, head boat operator elected to Council for Sustainable Fishing board

MURRELLS INLET, SC – Sonny Davis, owner of the Capt. Stacy Fishing Center in Atlantic Beach, NC and a life-long fishing industry veteran, last week was elected to the board of directors of the Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit fishing advocacy group focused on optimizing and sustaining fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic region.

“It’s great to have Sonny on the board. He brings tremendous leadership experience in the for-hire fishing sector to the table,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said. “Sonny is active in a number of fishing advocacy groups and understands the need to improve annual catch limits for fishermen and to ensure that the industry is not burdened by unnecessary regulations that have no bearing on fishery sustainability.”

“I’m pleased to serve on the CFSF board and provide guidance to the organization. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the fishing business since I started. It’s now a much more difficult business to be in,” Sonny Davis said. “I do know that it’s important for fishermen to unite to look out for our interests when it comes to fishery management decisions.”

Davis started his business in 1960, naming it after his father Capt. Stacy Davis, who ran charters out of Morehead City. Davis is a board member of NC Watermen United, serves on the Carteret County Marine Fisheries Advisory Board and has been appointed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to be a participant in the upcoming red snapper stock assessment that starts next month.

Founded last year, the CFSF has a unique multistate membership combination of commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region that have a stated mission of “optimizing and sustaining fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to aid the coastal economy of the region and ensure stable seafood availability to consumers.”

The CFSF has been active in pursuing Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms and in opposing unnecessary fishery regulations under consideration by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

The CFSF has expressed support for MSA reauthorization legislation that would give regional fishery management councils more flexibility in ending overfishing and rebuilding fisheries, allow consideration of ecosystem changes and the economic needs of fishing communities in establishing annual catch limits, and require referendum approval of any proposed “catch share” programs in the South Atlantic region by a majority of the affected fishery permit holders.

Most recently, the CFSF successfully fought against a SAFMC proposal to establish over 1,000 sq. miles of additional no-fishing zones or Marine Protected Areas off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and east Florida, that even the fishery council’s own scientific advisors have said were not justifiable. Last month, the SAFMC voted to halt the MPA proposal.

In addition to Davis, the CFSF board members are Wayne Mershon, owner, Kenyon Seafood, Murrells Inlet, SC; Langdon Gunter, recreational fishermen, Myrtle Beach, SC; Ann Shipman, Business Development Manager and Center of the Plate Protein Specialist, Greer, SC; James Clark, Executive Chef at The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC; Cheryl Fuller, Director of Seafood Operations, Halperns’ Steak and Seafood, Atlanta, GA; and Tony Hancock and Sean Heverin, both commercial fishermen from Jacksonville, FL.

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Seafood operations director of Atlanta-based Halperns' elected to Council for Sustainable Fishing board

MURRELLS INLET, SC – Cheryl Fuller, Director of Seafood Operations for Atlanta-based seafood and steak distributor Halperns’, this month was elected to the board of directors of the Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit fishing advocacy group focused on optimizing and sustaining fishing opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic region.

“We’re very pleased to have Cheryl on the board. She is a top seafood buyer and understands the need to improve annual catch limits for fishermen to the extent possible. The experience she brings to the board will be very helpful as we work to improve domestic seafood availability to consumers,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said.

"Having been born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, the South Atlantic fishery is of very special interest to me. Today we have to be the caretakers, watching out for the many men and women that fish there, while also protecting the environment for our future generations. Collectively we can make a difference," Cheryl Fuller said.

Click here for a Seafood International story about Cheryl.

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Council for Sustainable Fishing urges Congress to pass proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms, asks for moratorium on no-fishing zones off Southeastern states

MURRELLS INLET, SC – The Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishing interests, Tuesday sent a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee and its Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) urging passage of Hastings’ proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reform legislation and asking for inclusion of a moratorium on controversial no-fishing zones off the Southeastern states.

“The CFSF supports your proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization legislation entitled ‘Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act’ and urges its passage by Congress. Commercial and recreational fishermen and related businesses have unnecessarily suffered severe economic losses as a result of the inflexible mandates of the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Act,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel wrote.

“The CFSF strongly urges inclusion in the legislation of at least a five year moratorium on the establishment of any additional live bottom Marine Protected Areas in the South Atlantic region…We believe a five year moratorium on MPAs in the South Atlantic will protect fishermen and the coastal economy from an arbitrary and capricious fishery council decision and allow time for a systematic evaluation of the existing deep-water MPAs and quantification as to their impacts on enhancing speckled hind and warsaw grouper populations,” continued Swatzel.

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Council for Sustainable Fishing applauds proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act reforms offered by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Hastings

MURRELLS INLET, SC – The Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit advocacy group for commercial and recreational fishing interests, Monday applauded proposed legislation released by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) last week, which would offer significant flexibility reforms in reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law governing federal ocean fisheries.

“We are pleased with the direction of Congressman Hastings’ proposed legislation. For too long, commercial and recreational fishermen and the coastal economy have been unnecessarily impacted by the inflexible mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said. “Fishermen in the South Atlantic region have been suffering draconian cuts in landings for years, killing jobs, hurting the economy and unnecessarily restricting consumer access to fresh domestic seafood.”

The impacts of the 2007 version of the Act have been especially felt in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery, where from 2007 to 2012, fishing effort and landings from all sectors combined plunged by nearly 40 percent and 35 percent respectively.

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Council for Sustainable Fishing applauds SC Reps. Goldfinch and McCoy for stance against additional South Atlantic no-fishing zones

MURRELLS INLET, SC – The Council for Sustainable Fishing, a regional advocacy group for recreational and commercial fishing interests, Wednesday applauded South Carolina state Reps. Stephen Goldfinch, R-District 108 and Peter McCoy, R-District 115 for their letter to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council opposing additional no-fishing zones in the South Atlantic.

“We thank Reps. Goldfinch and McCoy for standing up for fishing interests and the coastal economy and their recognition that there is simply not enough scientific information to justify any additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas in the South Atlantic,” Council for Sustainable Fishing Executive Director Tom Swatzel said.

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South Atlantic commercial and recreational fishing interests, seafood consumers form advocacy group, Tom Swatzel tapped as executive director

MURRELLS INLET, SC – A unique multistate combination of commercial and recreational fishermen, seafood dealers and wholesalers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the South Atlantic region Tuesday announced that they had united to form a nonprofit advocacy group called the Council for Sustainable Fishing to better their plight with federal fisheries management and had hired Tom Swatzel, a former regional fishery management council member and issue advocacy and political veteran as executive director.

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Council for Sustainable Fishing