Tell the SAFMC NO to catch shares today!

I wanted you to know that the first step toward full privatization of our snapper-grouper fishery is underway.

Last week, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Vice-Chair Charlie Phillips and SAFMC member Chris Conklin filed their Exempted Fishing Permit application for a pilot commercial snapper-grouper catch share program.

Click here for the application, which only became public on Friday. Note that the phrase “catch shares” is not used in the application as to purpose – instead code-speak for catch shares like “allocation-based system” and “individual transferable quota” is used.

As promised, this EFP gives Phillips, Conklin and former SAFMC member Jack Cox, all commercial snapper-grouper fleet owners and dealers, exclusive snapper-grouper shares and would exempt them from any trip limits and seasonal or quota closures.

EFPs are usually for research purposes and are approved by just one person -- NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator Dr. Roy Crabtree, who is seeking the advice of the SAFMC at their March meeting in Jekyll Island, GA as to whether the EFP application should move forward or not.

Unless the SAFMC takes a strong stand against the EFP, I believe there is a very good chance Dr. Crabtree will ultimately approve the pilot catch share program. Once in place, count on efforts to impose catch shares on all fishermen.

This back-door “pilot” catch share scheme is exactly what the radical Environmental Defense Fund has used as a tactic in the Gulf of Mexico, where, according to a recent WVUE-TV investigative report “50 businesses and fishermen control 81 percent” of the commercial red snapper catch shares, worth $23 million a year, making these ‘snapper barons’ millionaires.

Guess who’s pushing this back-door effort along with these SAFMC ringleaders? According to the Charleston, SC Post & Courier, it’s EDF front group Seafood Harvesters of America, which according to tax documents has been funded with over $300,000 from EDF.

The Seafood Harvesters represent some of the biggest catch share owners in the nation. Board members include Jack Cox and Buddy Guindon (Big Fish Texas) who, according to media reports, is the third largest owner of Gulf red snapper shares, worth $1.4 million annually.

This isn’t about research -- it’s about picking the economic winners and losers in the snapper-grouper fishery by reducing the number of fishermen -- that’s what catch shares do. They hurt fishermen and fishing communities by killing jobs.

And if you have a for-hire snapper-grouper permit, this could ultimately affect that permit, too. The SAFMC also has on its meeting agenda for-hire limited entry, which is a beginning step toward for-hire catch shares. In other areas of the country, after commercial catch shares were imposed, for-hire catch shares shortly followed.

And this is not about fishery sustainability. Studies by the Lenfest Ocean Program and reports by Food and Water Watch and others have shown that catch share programs provide no biological benefit or enhanced sustainability to fisheries at all.

Time is very short -- speak out today to save jobs and fishing communities! Here’s how:

  1. Click here to access the SAFMC online comment form and tell them you’re opposed to the pilot catch share program permit and any form of catch shares. These “on the record” comments are crucial. Please make comments no later than March 8th.
  2. Speak out against the permit at the SAFMC public hearing on Wednesday, March 8th at 4:30 pm at the Westin Hotel, 110 Ocean Way, Jekyll Island, GA.
  3. Contact your representatives on the SAFMC to personally let them know you oppose the permit. Click here for contact information for all SAFMC members.

The only way to stop this catch share effort is for fishermen, like you, to step up and be heard by the SAFMC. I urge you to let the SAFMC know today that you oppose this back-door catch share effort before it’s too late.

Thank you in advance for your efforts!

Wayne Mershon
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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