Help stop the catch share threat!

I hope you had a happy new year.

As we enter 2017, the biggest threat to commercial and recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic is back: private ownership of the snapper-grouper fishery through a catch share program.

Fishery stakeholders have year after year overwhelmingly rejected any form of catch shares. Most recently, 97 percent of the comments on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s long-range snapper-grouper management plan opposed catch shares -- a plan the council promised would be “stakeholder-driven.”

Yet, SAFMC Vice Chair Charlie Phillips has revealed that he, SAFMC member Chris Conklin and former SAFMC member Jack Cox, all commercial snapper-grouper fleet owners and dealers, are leading an effort to get a voluntary “pilot” catch share program in place this year using an “Exempted Fishing Permit,” which is a back door way to avoid the normal fishery regulation approval process.

Exempted Fishing Permits are approved solely by NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator Roy Crabtree, who is also a member of the SAFMC. The SAFMC and the public can only provide input on the application. EFPs are normally used for research purposes when there is a need to get an exemption from fishery regulations.

In this case, the EFP would give participants shares of the fishery and apparently exempt them from any seasonal or quota closures. In a recent article in the Charleston, SC Post & Courier, Vice Chair Phillips touts that the permit would “allow them to catch all year."

The article also reveals that the Seafood Harvesters of America, which has been funded with over $300,000 from the radical Environmental Defense Fund, is supporting the EFP application. The Seafood Harvesters represent some of the biggest catch share owners in the nation.

Click here to read our president Wayne Mershon’s response in the Post & Courier entitled “Don't bite on risky lure of 'catch shares'.”

Wayne documents that catch shares destroy jobs (more than 18,000 so far) and don’t provide any biological benefit to fisheries. Catch shares only pick economic winners (“sea lords”) and losers (“serfs”). There certainly isn’t a need for a pilot catch share program -- all fishermen need to do is look to the catch share disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, New England and Pacific.

It’s not clear when the EFP application would be submitted to NOAA and the SAFMC. However, Vice Chair Phillips is optimistic that his fellow SAFMC members would endorse the EFP, telling the Post & Courier: "I'd like to think the council would say yes. It would be a reasonable thing to do."

Let’s hope not.

Beyond the very serious question of potential conflicts of interests, the SAFMC should honor its promise to fishery stakeholders and oppose this back door effort to privatize the fishery, as should NOAA.

Here’s how you can help:

Contact the SAFMC ringleaders of this effort today and tell them to listen to fishermen as promised and stop pushing unwanted catch shares:
Vice Chair Charlie Phillips -- [email protected] or 912-832-4423
Chris Conklin -- [email protected] or 843-543-3833

Thank you in advance for your efforts!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

P.S. The Council for Sustainable Fishing is a non-profit advocacy group that relies on membership dues to operate. Please help us continue our fight for fishermen and fishing communities by clicking here and joining today. 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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