So much for honoring promises

Last week, I attended the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Visioning Workshop in Charleston, SC where the council decided what to include in the long-range management plan for the snapper-grouper fishery – a plan the council promised would be “stakeholder-driven.”

You may recall that the SAFMC conducted 26 port meetings last year and a series of public hearings this summer seeking input on the Vision plan.

The results were crystal clear: snapper-grouper stakeholders do not support job-killing catch share programs, expensive electronic vessel monitoring, and more no-fishing zones as ways to manage the fishery.

According to the stakeholder comments the SAFMC receive this summer:

97% oppose catch shares
94% oppose electronic vessel monitoring
90% oppose more closed fishing areas

So it would seem a SAFMC decision to honor its promise of a stakeholder-driven Vision plan by removing these overwhelmingly opposed measures would be easy.

It was not.

In a meeting that was not recorded for the public record, nor broadcast via webinar, a vote to remove catch share programs from the Vision plan barely passed on a 7 to 5 vote.

After 97 percent of fishery stakeholders opposed any form of catch shares, SAFMC members Jack Cox (NC), Chris Conklin (SC), Charlie Phillips (GA), Zack Bowen (GA), and the designee for Roy Crabtree (NOAA) all voted to ignore stakeholders and keep catch shares in the plan.

So much for honoring promises.

Even though mandatory catch share programs were removed from the Vision plan, the SAFMC supporters of catch shares managed to get a possible voluntary catch share program included.

This effort to privatize the snapper-grouper fishery is led by well-funded special interest groups. It’s not about fishery sustainability, because there is no biological benefit to catch shares. It’s about who will control the fishery and make the most money.

The SAFMC did remove from the plan electronic vessel monitoring and more MPAs and SMZs (excluding the spawning SMZs currently under consideration in Amendment 36 or artificial reef SMZs).

I’m convinced that only through the efforts of committed fishery stakeholders like you, were we able to succeed in getting the majority of the SAFMC to listen to stakeholders and for the most part act accordingly.

Almost 70 percent of the written comments received by the SAFMC on the Vision plan were from comment cards furnished by the Council for Sustainable Fishing to all snapper-grouper permit holders and dealers and others. I’m convinced we also played a big role in public hearing turnout.

The bottom line is that it takes a lot of financial resources to print and mail thousands of comment cards and return envelopes, travel to meetings, maintain a website, and lobby, among others.

On a relatively small budget, we’ve been effective in competing against special interest groups who have spent millions of dollars trying to privatize fisheries.

But to continue to be an effective voice for commercial and recreational fishing interests we need your financial help now. Please join the CFSF today at the highest level you can afford by clicking here.

If you’re already a member, please consider a higher membership level. We really need your help.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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

Contributions or gifts to the Council for Sustainable Fishing are not tax deductible as charitable contributions. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

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