South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

The South Atlantic Bite

Newsworthy Notes – August 31, 2023

Robert Spottswood, Jr. was Appointed; Kerry Marhefka Reappointed to the South Atlantic Council

Robert Spottswood, Jr. will become the newest member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council when the Council convenes its September 11-15, 2023 meeting in Charleston. Appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, Robert will join Council member Kerry Marhefka, who was reappointed by the Secretary to serve a second term, as they both assume their At-large seats in September. Council members serve 3-year terms and may serve up to three consecutive terms. Robert replaces Council member Chester Brewer.

Robert Spottswood, Jr. is among the seventh generation of Spottswood family members living in Key West, FL. With an undergraduate degree from University of Florida in food and resource economics, he continued his education at Nova Southern University in South Florida where he collaborated with various environmental organizations and advocated for responsible development and preservation of native habitats. As an attorney, he specializes in real estate and hospitality law. Robert also serves as Board Member of the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and The Nature Conservancy.

“As a seventh-generation Floridian, lifelong fisherman, and someone who deeply cares about the preservation of our waters, being selected to serve on the Council is distinct honor and privilege,” said Spottswood, Jr. “I look forward to working alongside my colleagues on the Council to ensure that the health of our marine ecosystems remains a top priority and to work to alleviate the hardships faced by fishermen up and down the coast.”

Florida Council Member, Robert Spotswood Jr. sits at his desk with a black collared shirt.

A native of Maine, Kerry Marhefka and her family reside in Mt. Pleasant, SC where she and her husband Mark own and operate their family business, Abundant Seafood.

Graduating from the College of Charleston with a degree in marine science, Kerry worked as a fishery biologist for the Council. After meeting her husband Mark, a second generation commercial snapper grouper fisherman, Kerry left the Council staff in 2007 and together they founded Abundant Seafood, providing fresh seafood from the F/V Amy Marie to Charleston’s award-winning restaurants. They also began one of the first Community Supported Fishery programs in the United states. Abundant Seafood now includes two seafood markets in the Charleston area and provides seafood products to restaurants throughout the southeast. In 2020, Mark and Kerry were recognized by the James Beard Foundation and received the Leadership Award, spotlighting the “important and complex realms of sustainability, food justice, and public health.”

Kerry is currently Chair of the Council’s Dolphin Wahoo Committee, Citizen Science Committee, and Vice Chair of the Snapper Grouper Committee. Before being appointed to the Council, she served as a member of the Council’s Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel.

Information about members of the South Atlantic Fishery Council, including individual member profiles, is available from the Council’s website.

Recreational Fishing Effort Survey Bias Identified

The Marine Recreational Information Program, administered by NOAA Fisheries, recently published the results of a pilot study to evaluate potential bias in the program’s Fishing Effort Survey (FES) for shore and private boat modes. The effort survey, once conducted via telephone, is now conducted via U.S. mail to improve response rates. While the survey uses standard practices, the pilot study found that switching the order of the survey questions resulted in a significant decrease in estimated effort of private recreational anglers. The FES currently asks respondents to report their fishing activity over a 2-month period and then over a 12-month period. During the pilot study, the order of the fishing activity questions was switched, resulting in fewer reporting errors and fishing effort estimates that were 30 to 40 percent lower for shore and private boat modes than the current design. However, results varied by state and fishing mode.

Photo: NOAA Fisheries

The results of the 6-month pilot study were limited in sample size and NOAA Fisheries is planning a larger-scale, follow-up study starting in 2024 for a year to compare the differences in effort estimates between the current design and a revised design. Revisions to the design include changing the order of fishing activity questions and increasing the administration of the survey from every two months to monthly. Details are available in this recent Feature Story from NOAA Fisheries.

The Council will receive a presentation about the FES pilot study from NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology during the September 11-15 Council meeting in Charleston, SC. The presentation is scheduled for Monday, September 11th during a meeting of the Full Council. Similar presentations have been provided to both the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils. Council members will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss potential impacts of the FES estimates to future management decisions. You can listen to the presentation and Council discussion in person or via webinar as the meeting occurs. Learn more about the pilot study and changes to improve the survey by visiting the NOAA Fisheries website.

Briefing Book Materials Now Available for the Council’s September 11-14, 2023 Meeting

Meeting materials, including the week-long meeting agenda, committee agendas and overviews, presentations, and other meeting materials are now available from the Council’s website at: The meeting will be held at the Town and Country Inn in Charleston, SC and is open to the public. The meeting will also be available via webinar. Register now for the webinar and receive email reminders as the meeting date approaches.

An online public comment form is available from the September Council meeting page for you to provide comments on the meeting agenda. The Council will hold a public comment session on Wednesday, September 13th beginning at 4 p.m. Public comments will be accepted in person and via webinar. Details are available from the website.

Reminder! Share Your Historic Fishing Photos with the FISHstory Project

Wednesday, September 13th – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Bring your historic fishing photos to the September Council meeting to share with the FISHstory project. Council staff will be on hand on during the Council meeting on Wednesday to scan hard copies of your photos from the 1940s-1980s and gather background information. All photos will be returned. Photos need to:

  • Be taken at the end of trips where fishermen are displaying their catch
  • Have a known year and location
  • Include a vessel name, if possible

A project of the Council’s Citizen Science Program, FISHstory uses historic fishing photos to document the catch and size of fish from a time before catch monitoring programs were in place. Help this project grow by sharing your photos! Additional scanning events will be held in conjunction with upcoming advisory panel meetings. Questions? Contact Julia Byrd, Citizen Science Program Manager, or 843-302-8439.

Keeping up with Regulations

What do Snowy Grouper, Wreckfish, and Blueline Tilefish have in common? All three have recreational seasons that end each year on September 1st in federal waters in the South Atlantic. For Snowy Grouper and Blueline Tilefish, the recreational season opens May 1st and for Wreckfish, the season opens June 1st.

Keeping track of complex fishing regulations and seasons can be a challenge. Fish Rules provides an easy answer. Use the program’s free mobile app to keep up with the latest saltwater and freshwater fishing regulations in an easy-to-understand format. There’s even a commercial version. Download your free app today, check for updates before heading offshore, and have the latest information with you no matter how far you travel.

Current regulation information is also available from the Council’s website at:

Additional Snippets:

Warmer Seas Grow Hardships for U.S. Commercial Fishing Industry

Climate change is forcing shifts in the American fishing industry as animals, fishermen and policy makers adjust to rising sea temperatures. Shifting ocean temperatures force changes big and small for the U.S. industry. A recent article in International Business Times focuses on examples, from South Atlantic and Gulf shrimp, to salmon and Bering Sea crab.

NOAA Fisheries Webinar: Using Magnuson-Stevens Authority for Fisheries in the Geographic Area of More than One Council

In anticipation of an increasing number of fish stocks shifting in geographic distribution, new fisheries emerging, and other demographic shifts in fisheries, NOAA Fisheries has identified a need to set forth a consistent and transparent plan for identifying the geographic scope of fisheries and determining which regional fishery management council(s) will be responsible for fisheries that have extended or moved beyond the geographic area of authority of any one council or across council boundaries. NOAA Fisheries will conduct a public webinar September 27, 2023 from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. to provide information on this effort. Learn more from NOAA Fisheries .

Mark Your Calendar

Keep track of meetings scheduled by the Council from the Meetings page of the website and register for meeting webinars as information becomes available. Register early and receive email reminders as the meeting date(s) approach!

September 7, 2023

Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) Meeting

1-5 p.m. via webinar

Webinar registration

September 11-15, 2023

SAFMC Meeting

Charleston, SC

Meeting information

October 4-5, 2023

Outreach and Communications Advisory Panel Meeting

Charleston, SC

October 10-12, 2023

Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel Meeting

Charleston, SC

November 1-3, 2023

Habitat Advisory Panel Meeting

Charleston, SC

November 6-7, 2023

Dolphin Wahoo Advisory Panel Meeting

Charleston, SC

November 7-8, 2023

Mackerel Cobia Advisory Panel Meeting

Charleston, SC