Author Archives: Monica Goldberg

New red snapper proposals need safeguards from overfishing

Lawmakers in the House and Senate recently introduced legislation aimed at the perpetually contentious Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. Thanks to stronger conservation standards and accountability, red snapper numbers in the Gulf have tripled in the last decade and catch limits have doubled, leading to increased value for commercial fishermen and access for charter and for-hire vessels. Unfortunately, private anglers are stuck under a profoundly broken management system. Congressman Garret Graves, Senator Bill Cassidy and others on Capitol Hill propose to give the Gulf states the chance to manage this specific part of the red snapper fishery.

Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife via flickr: https://flic.kr/p/VjyKem

We share the desire to give private anglers more flexibility and certainty in their fishing opportunities, and states are already innovating under current law, such as the LA Creel program in Louisiana. The new bills (H.R. 3588 and S. 1686) have improved significantly from similar attempts last Congress. But without further safeguards, they threaten to take us back to the failures of the past, when the fishery was severely depleted and red snapper was hard to find for seafood consumers and anglers alike.

The current proposals would give the five Gulf States authority to manage the private angler portion of the red snapper fishery in both state and federal waters; commercial and charter/for-hire fishermen would remain under federal management. But because the bills lack provisions to ensure that the private angler sector stays within its quota (after exceeding it nine of the last 12 years), the bills would jeopardize the sustainability of the fishery and undermine the commercial and charter sectors.

Current law requires federal fishery managers to keep every sector – commercial, charter and private angler – within an annual catch limit. If one group exceeds its quota, managers must make adjustments to make up for the overage and prevent it happening in the future to ensure long-term sustainability.

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There's nothing modern about overfishing

A recently-filed bill with the upbeat title “The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act,” H.R. 2023, would unfortunately do just the opposite.  By gutting one of the most important improvements of modern fisheries law, we believe that this bill would move us backwards to a time of widespread overfishing. Read More »

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Sharks need smarter management and better data to recover and thrive

By Amada44 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dusky Shark  (Carcharhinus obscurus) are extremely rare. This one is swimming at Seaworld Aquarium in Queensland, Australia. Photo by: Amada44 via Wikimedia Commons

Shark advocates at Oceana recently sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), claiming that the way the agency controls fishing on dusky sharks violates the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  Duskies are overfished and have suffered overfishing for years, even though it is illegal to retain them if they are caught.  The duskies’ plight highlights the shortcomings of bans and similar efforts when it comes to protecting vulnerable species like sharks, especially when they are caught alongside other, healthier species.

Over the last several years, more and more people have learned about both the importance of sharks and the ongoing threats to their existence. This is great news because sharks are among the most important creatures in the ocean, playing a vital role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.  Plus, they’re really cool.  Formerly of interest exclusively to fish geeks like myself, Shark Week is now a widely celebrated summer ritual.  Shark finning, a deplorable practice where a shark’s fin is removed and the rest of its body is discarded at sea, has been banned in the United States since 2000, and more than 70 other countries have enacted similar bans.

Despite this progress, shark populations remain threatened and overfishing is common. The FAO reports that the market for sharks has actually increased, and many sharks die as bycatch as a side effect of fishing for other species at healthier population sizes, such as Atlantic swordfish (which has recovered after a focused conservation effort). Read More »

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Solutions for recreational red snapper not found in other fisheries

red snapper

Credit: Gulf Wild

The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery has undergone a tremendous recovery over the last eight years. Thanks to reformed commercial management the stock is rebounding strongly, and as a result this year’s quota is the highest on record. Unfortunately, recreational fishermen have not fully benefited, since their failed management system creates a cycle of shorter and shorter seasons. There are many competing attempts to address this very real problem, including several in Congress.

This week a U.S. House subcommittee will hold a hearing on H.R. 3094, a bill that proposes to transfer management for Gulf of Mexico red snapper to a new authority made up of the directors of the Gulf state fish and wildlife agencies. Some advocates of this approach, which we oppose, have suggested that the states successfully manage striped bass in the mid-Atlantic and Dungeness crab in the Pacific, and therefore transferring management of red snapper to the Gulf States is a good idea.

But these arguments gloss over important differences between red snapper and these other species, making the comparison about as real as most good fish stories. Read More »

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Congress Shouldn’t Destabilize Our Fisheries

iStock_000014939237_MediumNext week, the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 1335, a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  Fisheries issues often avoid the partisanship that otherwise rules (some would say cripples) Washington, but the Natural Resources Committee voted out H.R. 1335 strictly on party lines, and we expect the same outcome next week.  That’s a shame, not only because of the breakdown of bipartisanship, but also because this is a bad bill.

Many have written about how much U.S. fisheries management has improved over the last several years. A recent report from NOAA Fisheries confirms that overfishing numbers hit all-time low in 2014, and that 37 species around the country have rebuilt since 2000. EDF is proud to have worked side-by-side with the fishing industry as these gains have been made – not only because they’re delivering a healthier marine environment but also because they’re supporting more profitable fishing businesses and more prosperous coastal communities.  Unfortunately, H.R. 1335 would jeopardize this progress.  It would also put unnecessary restrictions on the decisions of the regional fishery management councils, long the bedrock of fishery management in the United States and a means for local fishermen and others to participate directly in the rulemaking process. Read More »

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On the RESTORE Act, Two Steps Forward, One Meaningless Gesture Back

Snapper boats dockedLast night the House and Senate agreed to compromise language on a broad set of initiatives referred to as the transportation bill.  Included in this “must-pass” bill is legislation dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill known as the RESTORE Act.  There is much to applaud in this bill; for example, it provides important funding for fisheries science and research.  It’s too bad it also contains an empty political gesture against a fishery management tool that has benefitted the Gulf’s fishermen.

The RESTORE Act directs the penalties received by the federal government as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to the affected region, including, at Senator Nelson’s particular insistence, providing funding for research to “support . . . the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.”  At a time of scarce funds and great need, this effort will help the marine resources and fishermen of the Gulf recover from the blow they suffered two years ago.

Unfortunately, the bill also contains a gratuitous slap at the region’s fishermen by prohibiting the use of the funds provided in the bill for the development or approval of new catch share programs along the east coast or the Gulf of Mexico.  The catch share language echoes an amendment previously offered by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) – but here it means absolutely nothing given a separate prohibition on using the money for any form of fisheries regulation. Read More »

Posted in Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, New England| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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