Wayne Mershon: Comments to the South Atlantic Council on MPAs

CFSF President Wayne Mershon's testimony before the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in Charleston, SC on September 19, 2013:

I’m Wayne Mershon, a snapper-grouper dealer from Murrells Inlet.

I want to express my opposition to the consideration of any more deep-water MPAs through Snapper-Grouper Regulatory Amendment 17.

The current snapper-grouper regulations have had a severe financial impact on commercial fishermen and dealers.  We’re struggling to survive.

The fishery council needs to follow the advice of its Scientific and Statistical Committee and analyze the impact of current snapper-grouper regulations on speckled hind and warsaw grouper stocks before pursuing any additional MPAs.

Here’s what the SSC said about this issue in its April 2012 report:

Given all of the current regulations that affect other snapper grouper species, it is possible overfishing for speckled hind and Warsaw grouper is no longer occurring. An analysis of the regulations for co‐occurring species and the reduction in landings/effort for those species may provide some data on how much bycatch of speckled hind and Warsaw grouper has been reduced. Additionally, an analysis of the associated fisheries and how they are prosecuted could provide information on the level of bycatch.”

Do you as a council know how many regulations have been imposed on snapper-grouper fishermen in just the last 4 years?

A combined total of 16 plan and regulatory amendments and interim rules have been approved just since 2009.

In comparison, during the first 25 years of the Snapper-Grouper Management Plan, from 1983 to 2008, a combined total of 20 plan and regulatory amendments and interim rules were approved.

What have been the cumulative impacts of this unprecedented spike in regulations on commercial snapper-grouper landings and effort?

From 2009 to 2012, South Atlantic commercial snapper-grouper landings fell by nearly 20 percent and the number of trips fell by 15 percent.

From all fishing sectors combined, snapper-grouper fishing effort is down nearly 40 percent and landings are down nearly 35 percent from peaks in 2007 and 2008.

What is the impact of these substantial landings and effort reductions on speckled hind and warsaw stocks?

This is something the council must know before considering any new MPAs.

How effective have the 8 existing deep-water MPAs, aimed at protecting speckled hind and warsaw, been in protecting those stocks?

This is something the council must know before considering any new MPAs.

The SSC also said in its April 2012 report:

“Based on the current info, the SSC cannot determine what benefits an additional closure will provide to the stocks of speckled hind  and warsaw grouper, what amount of area closure is necessary to reduce bycatch mortality, or if additional closed areas are even necessary. Additional monitoring and data needs to be collected in order to be able to conduct an assessment of these species.”

Listen to your scientific advisors. Before you unnecessarily hurt already hurting fishermen, gather the scientific information necessary to properly assess the need for more deep-water MPAs.

Thank you. 

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