Selected tags: South Atlantic

South Carolina Fisherman Wants Catch Shares, Not Closures

A recent op-ed by Chris Conklin in The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, voiced frustration over the cascading closures now hitting the Southeast. Conklin comes from a fishing family and wonders if he’ll be able to stay in the fishing industry unless catch shares are instituted. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering a number of options – including catch shares – to reduce fishing closures and get fishermen back on the water. 

Conklin points to the success of the red snapper catch share in the Gulf of  Mexico.  Not too long ago, Gulf red snapper fishermen were in a similar situation to fishermen in the Southeast. Now, they are now enjoying the third successful year of a catch share. They have a year-round season and dockside prices are higher. These fishermen will likely receive more fish this year because fish population rebuilding is going so well.

Even as Gulf commercial fishermen deal with the worsening oil spill, the flexibility they have to fish throughout the year lets them plan their businesses in the face of natural or man-made problems better than those not under a catch share.

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Posted in Catch Shares, Fishermen Voices, Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

Southeast fishery closures make the New York Times

SEfishingboat-smSoutheast fishermen recently finished the first month of closures on many popular fish. Many fisheries won’t open again for several months and reality is sinking in across the region.

The New York Times is even taking notice. When a region’s fishery woes make ink in one of the most prominent papers in the nation, you know it’s a big deal.

It’s apparent that closures aren’t working for fishing businesses, restaurants or local economies.  Fishermen can’t make a living when they can’t fish. Businesses that rely on local fish must turn to far off places to get it.  What’s not as apparent is that closures aren’t even very good for the region’s ecosystem, because they force fishermen to fish harder on other species that aren’t closed. This can cause market gluts and an early end to the fishing season for many species, which just multiplies current problems.

However, in all the sobering news coverage that’s come out lately, outlets are overlooking a solution that’s good for fish and fishing businesses.

Southeast fishermen need catch shares, which allow fishermen the flexibility to fish when the weather and prices are good and improve collection of fishery data, all while rebuilding fish populations. 

The good news is that the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is already exploring this solution. In fact, the Council has scheduled a catch shares workshop for March 1 preceding the Council’s next regular meeting. If you’re interested in learning more about the best solution for Southeast fisheries, I encourage you to attend. The meeting is open to the public.

Posted in Catch Shares, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Another day another closure

safmcwebsite4 Feb2010arrows

I recently spent a few hours taking stock of how our Nation is doing, using traditional approaches to fisheries management. My conclusion: not very well. As of December 31st, sixty federally managed fish stocks and stock complexes (containing an additional twenty species or so) were either overfished, being over fished, or both. That doesn’t even count the stocks for which the scientific information is so poor that we are “flying” blind or, many important but overfished non-federal stocks.

Take a look at the homepage of the South Atlantic Council's website (to the right). It shows closures for most of the “money fish” in the region – king mackerel, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, red snapper, groupers, and most of the other shallow-water reef fish. The costs of business-as-usual to commercial and recreational fishermen, fishing families, coastal communities, and coastal economies is staggering . . . not to mention to ocean ecosystems.

Thankfully, there is a better way — catch shares. While there are no silver bullets that will fix these fishery problems overnight – the problems been decades in the making – catch shares are the clear solution. You can read more about how to design a catch share at EDF's Catch Share Design Center.

Posted in Catch Shares, EDF Oceans General, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

New Data Policy Can Help Recover Sea Turtle Populations

Loggerhead close up over aqua_2792097[1]_shutterstock_RFThe National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to implement a new rule this year that can help improve our understanding of sea turtles and how the fishing industry interacts with them. This is good news because the current data on “sea turtle interactions” isn’t very plentiful in most fisheries. The rule would be important because managers need to understand the activities that affect sea turtles so they can develop effective conservation programs that recover threatened and endangered populations, such as Loggerhead sea turtles.

The rule would work by identifying fisheries in state and federal waters that will be required, upon NMFS’ request, to take scientific observers on fishing trips to gather information about the number of sea turtles encountered and the types of interactions. Several fisheries would be put on a list, called an Annual Determination, and would be subject to carrying observers for 5 years. NMFS is proposing to include fisheries such as trawl fisheries and gillnet fisheries in this Annual Determination.
 
In addition to the use of observers, NMFS should consider using new technologies (such as at-sea video monitoring) that can be cost effective and may allow an increase in the level of monitoring, especially in fisheries where accommodating an observer is difficult. 

Good data will help NMFS evaluate existing sea turtle protections and develop better management measures. Regulations based on good data, sound science, and industry, accountability can improve management of sea turtles and help rebuild endangered populations.

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South Atlantic Council Carefully Considers All Impacts of Red Snapper Regulations

The past few weeks have been big for Southeast fisheries.

  • Two weeks ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service passed an interim rule that will close red snapper fishing for 180 days starting Jan 4;
  • Last week, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council met in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina and approved measures (Amendment 17B) to end overfishing for nine species of snapper and grouper fish; and
  • Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its catch share policy, which will hopefully increase consideration of catch shares for our declining snapper-grouper fishery.

EileenonDocksWith all this going on, it is no wonder that last week’s Council meeting focused on red snapper.

Red snapper in the Southeast is said to have been overfished since the 1960s, but its cultural and economic value and lack of consensus on data are all reasons why the Council has yet to institute a rebuilding plan. But according to fishery laws, the Council must end overfishing of red snapper and other species. This has prompted a very close look at how to end overfishing of red snapper in a way that keeps as many fishermen on the water as possible.

Currently the Council is considering large area closures to end overfishing, but is still seeking new information – like red snapper mortality rates – that might further decrease the need for large closures.  The pursuit of this new information is likely to lead to delays in implementation of regulations to end red snapper overfishing, which is one reason the National Marine Fisheries Service took action to implement a red snapper interim rule. 

A huge amount of responsibility is put in the hands of Council members.  If regulations are too stringent, more fishermen will go out of business.  If regulations are too weak and do not end overfishing, the fishery will likely see future regulations that are even stricter and more devastating. 

Over the last year, I have heard impassioned pleas from commercial and for-hire fishermen and their families for the Council to consider how new regulations will impact their businesses and families.  This is an important concern and the Council is clearly considering business impacts in its deliberations on new regulations.

There is no magic answer for red snapper and other fish in trouble because all solutions will impact fishermen – commercial and recreational alike.  However, a catch share for red snapper and other snapper and grouper species will help keep fishermen on the water and fishermen’s profits up.  Plus, the Council can now look for technical, analytical, research and public outreach help from NOAA, via the agency’s new catch share policy, to help make this opportunity a reality.

As the Council makes a decision on red snapper and starts hearing more about how the early fishing season closures on vermillion, black sea bass, and other fish are negatively effecting individual profitability and the price of fish, I encourage them to consider a catch share to address accountability, improve data, and maintain a profitable fishery.

Posted in Catch Shares, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

SAFMC Protects Deep Water Corals

Deep water corals off the southeastern U.S.Big news comes from the U.S. Southeast, where the regional fishery management council voted last Thursday to protect what is likely the planet's largest deepwater coral ecosystem, covering nearly 25,000 square miles, stretching from North Carolina to Florida.

This final action culminates ten years of active collaboration between scientists (including EDF Oceans Chief Scientist, Doug Rader), managers, environmentalists and fishermen to protect this recently discovered world treasure. While rulemaking in the U.S. Department of Commerce will extend into next year, the vote last week was a major conservation milestone. In combination with the establishment of national marine monuments in the distant Pacific in January, this action truly establishes 2009 as the year of the oceans!

Recent Press:

The Charlotte Observer

Orlando Sentinel

TCPalm (Florida)

Photo courtesy of Steven Ross

Posted in Marine Protection, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

South Atlantic Council Votes Unanimously to Explore Catch Shares

SA boat - smWe know that Southeast fishermen and business owners aren’t happy with the long season closures in place for many popular snapper grouper species, but today marks a victory toward better management that will help move the fishery away from closures. Today the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to explore a catch share amendment for the snapper grouper fishery. 

Managing a fishery under catch shares  is an opportunity to replace current management that focuses on closures – which don’t help fish, fishermen or businesses – with a more rational system that allows for increased flexibility about when and how to fish. Catch shares management also helps stocks recover and offers stability to fishing and other local businesses.

This decision is a chance for both commercial and recreational fishermen to get in the driver’s seat about how their fishing is managed, and start getting their seasons back. Catch shares also help achieve conservation gains very quickly, such as significantly reducing the amount of fish that must be thrown overboard dead due to outdated management rules.

Several fishermen spoke up at the Council meeting in favor of catch shares.

“In the midst of these long closures, catch shares could be the fishing industry’s saving grace,” said Phil Conklin, a commercial fisherman out of Murrells Inlet, S.C.  “Just look at the Gulf’s red snapper fishermen if you want proof that this can work in the Southeast. We’re in the same situation they were five years ago. Rather than letting our fishing industry continue to go down the drain under these season closures, that many doubt will even help the fish and will certainly hurt fishermen, we should seriously consider catch shares for our fishery.”

The Council’s decision shows that they’re thinking about the long-term health of the fishery. They should keep this momentum going and work to implement a catch share for the fishery soon. It’s the best way to keep the Southeast’s fishing heritage alive.

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"Dock Talk" Shows that Books Can Only Take You So Far

Snapper Off-load in Destin, FLAt a recent meeting in Destin, FL, where members of our Gulf and South Atlantic teams met to discuss collaborative projects, I had the opportunity to see a commercial boat offloading its catch after a three day fishing trip. What an experience! 

As multitudes of red snapper, vermilion snapper, and grey triggerfish were loaded off the boat and put on ice, I took the opportunity to meet with the Captain and crew and ask questions.  I learned what species are caught together, and therefore which species probably share the same habitat. 

The Captain told me about the places he goes fishing, what depths he fishes, what gear he uses, and how far out he goes.  It was interesting to learn that many of the species he co-catches in the Gulf are same species that are caught together in the South Atlantic.  It reaffirmed for me, from a shared habitat and ecosystem point of view, that collaboration between the South Atlantic and Gulf teams is beneficial and even critical.

The Captain explained that he is pleased with the recent red snapper catch share program because he doesn’t have to go as far to catch fish since the red snapper stock seems to have expanded. He also doesn’t have to throw nearly as many fish back overboard.  His job is more profitable and takes less time.  Who wouldn’t be happy with that?

Additionally, a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist was on hand taking otolith (ear bone) samples from fish to take back to the agency’s lab.  This random sampling of otoliths was taken in order to determine the ages of the fish that were caught.  Under a microscope, an otolith has rings on it, like a tree trunk, that can be counted to age the fish.  She even showed me how to take an otolith sample!

Overall, I learned a valuable lesson. As a fisheries scientist, it is imperative to get out in the field and ask fishermen questions.  As I think about how a catch share program would work for the snapper grouper fishery in the South Atlantic, it is important for me to understand the biological aspects of fish that are caught together and share the same habitat. These aspects must be factored into a successful catch share program. 

Fishermen are good at what they do and have insightful knowledge into the oceans they depend upon to make a living. This type of information and insight can’t be learned in a book, sometimes you just have to get out on the docks.

Posted in Catch Shares, Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed