Selected tag(s): closures

October Brings Even More Closures to the South Atlantic

 If you think the headlines about fishery closures in the South Atlantic are getting old, imagine being a fisherman in the region.  As these closures continue to pile up, they are looking at months off the water.

On October 8, 2012 the commercial black sea bass fishery will close for the year.  The fishery opened on July 1, 2012 after having eliminated half of its fishermen – many who had made serious investments in gear and relied on black sea bass for many years.  This was a result of a fishery management tool called “endorsements” implemented by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Endorsements eliminate fishermen from a specific fishery to handle overfishing by setting a minimum average of pounds of fish that fishermen must have caught in the past to receive an “endorsement” to fish for that species in the 2012 season. The unfortunate truth about endorsements is that conservation-practicing fishermen who fish with less gear, catch less fish, and are paid a higher price for their quality fish are forced out of the fishery in favor of those who use more gear, catch more fish, and flood the market with lower quality fish.

In South Carolina this program eliminated 80 percent of the fishermen who had previously been trapping sea bass. It hurt fishing families throughout the region, and especially in the Carolinas – where in some fishing towns, not a single fisherman received an endorsement.  To make this hardship worse, after all of that, this year’s season only lasted 55 days longer than the previous year.

Fishermen are willing to sacrifice to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fish, but a program that results in blanket removal of fisherman, without any hope for a future stake in the fishery, isn’t good policy.

More closures are coming for fishermen in this region and the question of how long they can hang on is getting harder to answer.  The outdated command and control management isn’t working for the stocks and isn’t working for the fishermen.  They deserve better. Read More »

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More Closures Coming For South Atlantic Fishermen


Source: JamesAlan1986 at en.wikipedia

Earlier this month the South Atlantic was hit with a number of closures.  Many fishermen will be off the water until April 2013 and now the Southeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service has announced another closure.

The Commercial Vermillion Snapper fishery will close on September 28th, 2012.  The fishery has exceeded its catch limit and will be closed through the end of the year.

This is an important fishery in the region, but short seasons are nothing new to the fishermen.  While there was good news for commercial yellowtail snapper fishermen, whose season has been extended, more closures are expected for commercial fishermen in the region. Many are worried about how they will survive such a long time off the water.

There are better ways to manage fisheries, and fishermen in the Southeast deserve better options than this.

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September Closures Will Bring Heartache to Fishermen in the Southeast

Beginning on September 8, 2012, a series of closures will begin for commercial fishermen in the South Atlantic.  Closures have become all too commonplace for fishermen in the region that spans from North Carolina all the way down the Atlantic coast of Florida.

The upcoming closures will include a number of species:



Closure Begins


Yellowedge grouper, blueline tilefish, silk snapper, misty grouper, queen snapper, sand tilefish, black snapper, blackfin snapper

 September 8, 2012

Gray triggerfish

Gray triggerfish

 September 11, 2012


Jolthead, knobbed, saucereye, whitebone, scup

September 8, 2012

Yellowtail snapper

Yellowtail snapper

 September 11, 2012

Command and control management that dominates the South Atlantic fisheries isn’t working for fish or for fishermen.  Stocks are continuing to suffer and fishermen are barely hanging on.  We continue to hear reports from fishermen that many are ready to leave the fishing business, some have had to look to government assistance to feed their families and many face a serious mountain of debt.  Being off the water for months at a time and working in constant fear of closures is no way to run a business.These species are crucial to many commercial fishermen in the region.  The closure of the gray triggerfish and yellowtail snapper fisheries are unprecedented. With spawning closures taking place at the beginning of 2013, this could mean more than six months off the water for many commercial snapper-grouper fishermen. Read More »

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Fishermen Face Uncertainty as Valuable Fishing Seasons Cut Short

Catch shares could extend seasons, bring back fish  

These vermilion snapper were landed in Murrels Inlet, SC in late August 2010.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is closing two valuable commercial fishing seasons in the Southeast on Oct. 6 and 7: vermilion snapper and black sea bass, respectively. 

With so many restrictions already placed on commercial fishing in recent years, fishermen are forced to compete with other fishermen to catch vermillion snapper and black sea bass as fast as possible before the catch limits are met and seasons closed. For several years, the limits have been met faster and seasons closed earlier. Once the seasons close, there will be few other valuable fish to catch for the rest of the year. 

These closures are not an accident. They’ve been happening consistently throughout the region for several years, due to outdated fishing rules and lower limits of fish to catch.

  • Since 2008, the vermilion snapper commercial fishing season has decreased in length by nearly 50%, allowing just 6 months of fishing this year.
  • Since 2006, the black sea bass commercial fishing season has decreased in length by more than 60%, allowing just under five months of fishing this year.
  • Since 2005, the golden tilefish commercial fishing season has decreased in length by more than 70%, allowing just over 3 months of fishing this year.
  • In 2009, there were no red snapper season restrictions, but this year fishing for red snapper has been banned the entire year.

This trend indicates that continued fishing under outdated rules could result in even more restrictions, causing further economic damage to the fishing industry and the communities it supports. Some fishermen have already gone out of business; those who are still in business often must go out in dangerous weather to fish before seasons close. Local fish can be hard to come by in the region.

There’s a better way to revitalize fish populations and get fishermen back on the water: catch shares.

Catch shares are the best solution for Southeast fisheries. Catch shares have proven results in fisheries around the world, they improve science through enhanced fishery monitoring and they eliminate the need for fishery closures.

Now is the time to move forward with better management: catch shares.

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Vote on Massive Southeast Fishing Closures Passes

Today in Orlando, Florida, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) approved amendment 17A (17A) to the snapper grouper fishery management plan. Now it will go to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke for approval. 17A closes the red snapper fishing season throughout the Southeast. It also closes a 5,000 square mile area for additional kinds of snapper and grouper fishing from Georgia to South Florida. A short-term ban was put in place in January to prevent red snapper fishing, until 17A could be finalized.

While today’s passage of 17A fulfills the Council’s legal requirements to end overfishing of red snapper, it does not provide an effective long-term strategy for a healthy fishery. In reality, it reinforces many other problems:

  • Commercial and charter fishermen going out of business;
  • Difficulty in finding local fish in restaurants and stores; and
  • Recreational fishermen – including tourists – not being able to fish as much, which hurts countless bait and tackle shops, boat dealers and mechanics, and tourist hotels and restaurants.

Catch shares allow fishing as fish populations rebuild
EDF believes that catch share management is the best option for the commercial and for-hire (charter and party boats) sectors of the snapper and grouper fishery. Catch shares could potentially replace 17A’s closures with fishing seasons and reduce closed areas while fish populations rebuild. Private anglers deserve an opportunity to catch red snapper too, and fishermen and the Council have an opportunity to improve the management by exploring new tools like a tagging program.

Growing numbers of Southeast fishermen agree that catch shares are the best way forward.

Catch shares set a scientifically-based limit on the total amount of fish that can be caught and then divide that amount among individual fishermen or groups of fishermen.  Studies have shown that catch shares bring fish populations back and benefit fishermen. With catch shares, fishermen have much more flexibility on when to fish, are held individually accountable for what they catch, are no longer forced to waste tons of fish by throwing them overboard, and fishing can be more profitable.

A looming disaster: Effort shift
When 17A is implemented, fishermen will focus on other kinds of fish, instead of red snapper. This can damage other fish populations or underwater habitat. Also, the uncontrolled BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may push Gulf fishermen into Southeast waters. Both situations will increase the amount of fishing pressure on an already distressed fishery. Catch shares reduce the need for season and area closures and the chance of damaging effort shift in fisheries.

Catch share success is proven
Successful catch share management is in place in the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper, grouper and tilefish fisheries and hundreds of other fisheries worldwide. Just three years after the red snapper catch share in the Gulf of Mexico went into place, the amount of wasted fish was reduced significantly, fishermen made higher profits, and fish populations were rebounding. With the BP Oil Disaster, the flexibility of catch shares allows fishermen in areas closed to fishing to sell or lease their shares of fish to fishermen in open areas.

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Can Catch Shares Lower the Number of Fishery Closures?

Fishing Boat

The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has put fishery closures in the headlines, but closures are nothing new or unusual.  In fact, numerous fisheries are closed every year. In an era of declining fish stocks, managers essentially have two tools at hand to meet the legal requirement of ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks – closures or catch shares. Closures have been used extensively and increasingly. 

In the last two years, nearly half of US federal fishery management plans (FMPs) have used emergency closures as a way to manage fishing effort. Closures prohibit fishermen from catching and landing species based on either area or time.  For example, managers may close an area of fishing grounds or an entire fishery for a particular period of time. 

Snapper boats docked

Emergency closures can affect all sectors of a fishery or may be focused on just one sector, such as recreational or commercial.  Often multiple types of closures–area, season and sector—are used to manage effort. 

Closures, as described here, are being used on an emergency basis to control fishing effort. Often, closures occur within a single year as a way to prevent fishermen from exceeding annual catch limits.  In instances where a species is at a critically low level, managers may close a fishery indefinitely.  

Note: There are times in which managers used planned closures to enhance the management of a fishery, such as closing certain areas or times to protect spawning aggregations.  These planned closures are not included in my discussion here.  Instead, this analysis focuses on unplanned closures that are used to manage fishing effort.

4,200 days – Number of fishing days lost in 2009 due to early season closures. 

This is equivalent to 11½ years! If early and indefinite season closures had not occurred in 2009, fishermen would have been able to fish over 9,700 days in those fisheries.  Instead, only about 5,500 days were open to fishermen for the affected species.  And the story in 2008 was similar – fishermen lost 5,000 days of fishing, down from over 9,900 that would have been possible without early or indefinite closures. 

The pattern in 2010 is continuing – 20 species managed under three FMPs have used early season closures from January to May, including an emergency closure in the commercial and recreational sectors of the Red Snapper Fishery in the South Atlantic Region.  Implementation of this closure has estimates of a $1.8 million loss for the commercial and recreational fleets.  The fishery is slated to open on June 2, 2010, but managers may extend the closure for another 186 day period.

Read More »

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