Federally permitted commercial fishermen are required to report information about their individual fishing trips and have been doing so through the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Fishery Science Center’s Coastal Fisheries Logbook Program since the program began in 1990. Over the years, the program has expanded and the format for the reporting forms has changed, but the use of paper logbooks has remained constant. Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved a comprehensive amendment that would replace the current paper-based logbook and require electronic reporting, eliminating the need for carbon copies and paper mailings.
If approved by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and subsequently the Secretary of Commerce, the joint Comprehensive Amendment Addressing Electronic Reporting for Commercial Vessels would apply to commercial vessels permitted in the South Atlantic snapper grouper, Atlantic dolphin wahoo, Atlantic and Gulf coastal migratory pelagic (CMP), and Gulf Reef Fish fisheries. The requirements may also affect vessels fishing in the Greater Atlantic Region and in other fisheries (e.g., Highly Migratory Species) that have the permits noted above.
Data collection programs, such as the Coastal Fisheries Logbook Program, provide essential information required to assess stock status and monitor harvest. The move to electronic reporting is expected to improve timeliness and efficiency of commercial logbook data collection and management, improve monitoring and compliance, and eventually support one-stop reporting for vessels that hold multiple permits. Developed jointly with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the amendment is expected to be approved by the Gulf Council during its October 23-26, 2023, meeting.
“As a fisherman that fishes every day and has to fill out daily logbooks, sometime twice a day, this is much appreciated,” said Jimmy Hull, a commercial fisherman and owner of Hull’s Seafood in Ormond Beach, Florida. “It takes a long time to fill out paper logbooks and sometimes mistakes are made, but with e-logbooks, reporting will be more accurate, and I can do this daily and more quickly. Overall, I see this as a positive and full speed ahead.” Hull, a former member and Chair of the Council’s Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel, also noted the advisory panel has been supportive of this effort for several years.
The Council received a presentation from the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology regarding a pilot study conducted on the Marine Recreational Information Program’s Fishing Effort Survey (FES). Preliminary results suggest the order of the questions in the survey may lead to an overestimation of recreational fishing effort, in some cases 30 to 40%. Council members discussed their concerns, and the implications of the FES pilot study and steps NOAA Fisheries will take over the next few years to address the potential bias. The Council approved a series of motions outlining their approach to address the impact of biased FES estimates on management and assessment activities. This included reviewing each amendment discussed during the meeting to consider how bias in recreational catch and effort estimates could impact proposed actions.
The Council approved a Habitat Program Evaluation and Blueprint to establish goals and objectives for its habitat program that ensure Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requirements are addressed, clarify processes for developing habitat policies and comments, and provide overall direction for the program. The Habitat Blueprint also includes modifications to the Council’s Habitat and Ecosystem Advisory Panel.
The Council discussed the status of Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 35 with actions to reduce catch levels for Red Snapper and require the use of single-hook rigs when fishing for snapper grouper species. The amendment was approved by the Council in March of this year but has not been submitted for Secretarial review. The Council will continue discussion of the amendment during its December meeting.
Additional information about the Council’s September meeting, including final committee reports and reports from meetings of the Full Council are available from the Council’s website at: https://safmc.net/events/september-2023-council-meeting/. The next meeting of the South Atlantic Council will be held December 4-8, 2023, in Beaufort, North Carolina.
Vessel photo credit: Jimmy Hull