Selected tags: Southeast

Last Stop – Sea Breeze, NC

Queen Quet with Gullah Geechee fishermen and other listening session attendees in Sea Breeze, NC.

Queen Quet with Gullah Geechee fishermen and other listening session attendees in Sea Breeze, NC.

During the past few months the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition and EDF have held listening sessions with African-American fishermen in the South Atlantic - from South Carolina to Florida and Georgia. The sessions provided us with the opportunity to listen and document the concerns of these fishermen working in commercial and subsistence fisheries.

Our series of listening sessions concluded last weekend in Sea Breeze, North Carolina. Fitting of its name, Sea Breeze once hailed as a popular beach destination for African-Americans in the Wilmington area. Members of the community recollected that on any given Friday night, Sea Breeze was alive with the sound of music and smell of cooked seafood. Our gathering was certainly reminiscent of the past, as local fishermen gathered around a feast of fresh seafood to discuss the important role fishing has played in their lives and how that has changed over time.

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee nation and founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, led the meeting of nearly 30 participants. Although many do not continue to fish today, everyone in the room indicated they used to fish at one point in their lives. “Fishing was natural because the whole family did it,” explained attendee Mrs. McQuillan.

Only four men in attendance still remain in the commercial fishing sector with the years of experience varied among them. Fishing partners Luther McQuillan and Joe Farrow have been fishing for 60 and 70 years – a way of life that began when they were mere children. According to the four fishermen, Southeastern staples like shrimp, oysters, clams, and crabs were some of the more sought-after fish, in addition to croaker, mullet, red drum, and whiting.

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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 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