Wednesday, November 3, 2010

RFA Blasts South Atlantic Snapper-Grouper Closure

According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), a 4,800-square mile ban on bottom fishing in the South Atlantic is based purely on flawed science, inaccurate harvest data and overly restrictive federal fisheries language written into the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act.  "There is no biological problem with this fishery," said RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio, "this is a management and legislative problem, not a fishery issue."

"This fishery is rebuilding and that's not even a debate for our fisheries experts, but because it's not rebuilding fast enough according to Magnuson, the government has to shut down access to healthy fisheries," Donofrio said.  "How can you defend a law which is so punitive to a uniquely American industry, a law which denies everyday anglers access to a public resource."

The plan is forecast to cost area fishermen millions of dollars in lost catch, not only in snapper but grouper, sea bass and other harvests from dozens of species commonly caught through bottom fishing.

"It's going to put a lot of people of business," said Capt. Bob Zales, II President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO).  "You'll probably have a lot of small family owned charter operators going out of business, not to mention tackle shops, restaurants, marinas, hotels and every other business that relies on fishing and tourism," he added.  According to Zales, who's also a member of the RFA national board of directors, it would be one thing if the fishery was in trouble.  However, he explains the strict requirements under Magnuson prevent any flexibility within the fisheries management process to allow fishermen to continue fishing.

"The Magnuson Stevens Act dictates that all fisheries are managed by a one-size-fits-all approach, and that just doesn't work," Zales said, adding "Cinderella's slipper doesn't fit on every foot, and this fairy tale of fisheries management is destroying our industry."

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council was recently notified by NMFS' Southeast Regional Office that a 4,800-square mile fishing ban is on its way for South Atlantic anglers.  A final rule to implement controversial Amendment 17A will likely be published in mid-November, but the U.S. Department of Commerce's announcement will ultimately establish a closed area extending from southern Georgia to Cape Canaveral, FL affecting angler harvest and possession of all snapper-grouper species.

The fishing closure affects areas with depths between 98 and 240 feet and is being implemented as part of the Amendment 17-A which indefinitely bans all bottom-fishing for both the commercial and recreational sectors.  A blanket ban on red snapper harvest adopted as a temporary measure last year remains in effect in a 200-nautical mile zone off the entire Southeast coast.

source: RFA

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