Management Alternatives to End Overfishing Approved for Public Hearings

SAFMC logo South Atlantic Fishery Management Council  
News Release  
September 21, 2009 CONTACT: Kim Iverson
Public Information Officer
(843) 571-4366

Management Alternatives to End Overfishing Approved for Public Hearings

Options include large area closures for snapper grouper fishing, plus new alternative for special permits

     Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council considered recommendations received from its advisory panel members and others concerned about proposed management measures to end overfishing for 10 species in the snapper grouper management complex.  The Council is considering options to close large areas of federal waters extending from portions of South Carolina through north/central Florida to all snapper grouper fishing in order to end overfishing of red snapper through Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan.  “We know these alternatives are going to have significant economic impacts, but the Council must end overfishing – and long-term, that’s a good thing,” said Council Chairman Duane Harris. “But there will certainly be huge consequences to recreational and commercial fishing communities.  There doesn’t appear to be any way to avoid these consequences while ending overfishing for red snapper.”
     During its meeting last week in Charleston, South Carolina the Council discussed at length the list of recommendations provided by the advisory panels and fishermen, and formulated an additional management alternative that may allow designated “fishing zones” for snapper grouper species within the proposed closed areas. These fishing zones would have stringent requirements, including special permits for both commercial and recreational fishermen, and may require the use of Vessel Monitoring Systems to track fishermen’s movements, electronic logbook reporting, text message reporting for recreational fishermen and other requirements.  Fishing for red snapper would still be prohibited within the areas, but some fishermen may be selected to harvest red snapper for biological sampling. The zones would close after a specified amount of red snapper discards have been recorded.  “The Council is exploring options to allow some harvest of snapper grouper species to benefit the fishermen as well as the collection of data from these fishermen,” said Chairman Harris.
     The 2008 stock assessment for red snapper in the South Atlantic region shows the stock to be overfished and undergoing overfishing at eight times the sustainable level.  In March, the Council requested an interim rule to close the red snapper fishery for both commercial and recreational fishermen in order to help meet the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to end overfishing within one year.  The request for a closure is currently being reviewed by NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS) and according to Dr. Roy Crabtree, Regional Administrator for NMFS’s Southeast Regional Office, if approved, a closure is not likely until after the end of October this year.  Meanwhile, the red snapper fishery remains open with a current recreational bag limit of 2 fish per person/day included in a 10 snapper aggregate bag limit, and a 20” Total Length size limit for both commercial and recreational fishermen.
     Because of the high mortality associated with discarded red snapper, a closure of the fishery will not be sufficient to end overfishing.  Long-term measures are being developed through Amendment 17A.  Measures to address the remaining species listed as undergoing overfishing: speckled hind, warsaw grouper, golden tilefish, snowy grouper, black grouper, black sea bass, gag, red grouper, and vermilion snapper, are being
addressed through Amendment 17B.  Alternatives include a deepwater closure, specified quotas, and
allocations for some species.  Additional measures for snapper grouper species are being considered in Amendment 18, including expanding the management unit northward (from North Carolina), limiting access for the commercial golden tilefish fishery and black sea bass pot fishery, and use of electronic logbooks.
    A series of public hearings will be scheduled the first two weeks in November for members of the public to comment on the proposed management measures within Amendments 17A, 17B, and Amendment 18.   “We encourage the public to review the alternatives and attend the public hearings,” stated Chairman Harris.  “Bring your recommendations with the understanding that the Council has to end overfishing as mandated by the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act.”  Details regarding the dates and locations of the hearings will be publicized as soon as they become available. Public hearing documents will also be posted online once they become available. 
     The next meeting of the Council is scheduled for December 7-11, 2009 in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. For additional information regarding Council meetings, including briefing book materials and summary motions, visit safmc.net/cms or contact the Council office. 
 

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils, conserves and manages fish stocks from three to 200 miles offshore of North and South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida.

 

Management Alternatives to End Overfishing Approved for Public Hearings