6919 Portwest, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2012 CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH
Congress weighs in on Gulf Councils sector separation scheme
Sportsmens Caucus urges Council to step back from unpopular catch shares, sector separation
WASHINGTON, DC â€“ In another sign of discontent over federal management of the nations marine fisheries, co-chairmen of the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus (CSC) have sent a letter to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council expressing the concerns of its membership over the concepts of catch share programs and sector separation. The bipartisan CSC is one of the largest and most effective caucuses in the US Congress with more than 300 members representing almost all 50 states.
â€œAs leaders of the Caucus, we are writing to report that continued consideration and promotion of the management concepts known as sector separation and catch shares by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are causing concern among our members,â€ CSC co-chairmen Jeff Miller (R-Fl.) and Mike Ross (D-Ar.) state in the letter. â€œMore specifically, we have serious concerns about the current proposal to further subdivide the recreational fishing allocation by awarding the charter boats with their own guaranteed allocation.â€
The CSC goes on to question the process the Gulf Council is using to develop and implement sector separation and catch share programs, and points out that the Council first needs better scientific data, additional economic evaluations and demographic studies to assess how mixed used fisheries would best be reallocated.
â€œEven if such reallocation issues were analyzed and modified, taking a portion of the allocation from the recreational sector for the proposed charter boat sector has the potential to decrease the funding available for state fisheries management,â€ the CSC states. â€œThe members of the Caucus are well acquainted with the successes of state-based conservation, which is almost entirely guided and funded by sportsmen and the money they spend on fishing and hunting. The sportsmens ethic of stewardship is at the heart of the American System of Conservation Funding and is built, in part, on the foundation of individual anglers recreational fishing activities.â€
The letter from the CSC is yet another unequivocal message from elected officials to federal fishery managers in opposition to sector separation and catch share programs. In 2009, four Gulf state governors wrote a letter stating their opposition to catch shares and Congress has passed amendments cutting funding for such programs.
â€œWe hope the members of the Gulf Council are listening because the message from Governors, Congressmen, and the recreational angling community is quite clear â€“ privatizing public wildlife resources through sector separation and catch shares is the wrong direction,â€ said Chester Brewer, chairman of Coastal Conservation Associations National Government Relations Committee. â€œIf the Council and NOAA Fisheries continue to ignore this message, then that should be interpreted as yet more evidence that the federal management system is broken and Congress should engage to either rein in a federal agency that has lost its way or explore a completely new paradigm for managing the nations marine resources.â€
To see the full letter from the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus, click HERE.
6919 Portwest, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2012 CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH
Twenty Congressmen join call for moratorium on rig removals
Efforts to save marine habitat gain support from across the country
WASHINGTON, DC â€“ A letter from the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus (CSC) to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar calling for a moratorium on rig removals due to the federal governments Idle Iron policy will carry the signatures of 20 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, an impressive bi-partisan display of concern for marine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.
â€œAs leaders and members of the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus, we are concerned that the Idle Iron guidance issued by the Department of Interior in October of 2010 is having an adverse impact on critical marine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico,â€ states the letter, signed by Representatives from 10 states. â€œWe request that your Department enact a temporary moratorium on the removal of structures related to that Directive until a stakeholder process can be developed to determine both the best methods to properly dismantle rigs that have cause to be removed, and to protect those structures that are shown to harbor thriving marine ecosystems.â€
In response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron directive which resulted in a policy that will ultimately force removal of any rigs, platforms or associated structures from non-producing wells. Coastal Conservation Association and other groups have argued that the structures are the basis for thriving ecosystems that sustain an immense diversity of life, and have called for a thorough evaluation to be developed before any removal decisions are made. CCA worked with CSC and with Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on this most recent call for a moratorium on the Idle Iron policy to develop that process. Rep. Palazzo presented the concerns of the recreational angling community at a briefing hosted by the Congressional Sportsmens Foundation in June where he also invited fellow members of the Caucus to sign onto the letter to Secretary Salazar.
â€œSportsmen know the value of habitat. We know how hard it is to create it and we know how easy it is to lose it,â€ said Rep. Palazzo. â€œWe cannot sit idly by while marine habitat in the Gulf is destroyed by a policy that clearly needs more consideration. The Idle Iron issue may seem complex, but at the end of the day we would be wise to protect these habitats.â€
The letter from the CSC is the latest in a string of efforts that CCA has worked on and supported to derail the Policy, including the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed in 2011 by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and the companion bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Palazzo; language implementing strict review and reporting requirements on removals in the Sportsmens Act of 2012; the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils decision to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and letters from both Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to Secretary Salazar urging him to reconsider the policy. In June, a coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups called for a halt to the Idle Iron policy in a letter to Secretary Salazar, citing the irreparable damage it stands to inflict on an extensive range of marine fisheries and ecosystems. Additionally, the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council, an 18-member committee established to provide input to the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on recreational boating and fishing issues and aquatic resource conservation issues, sent a letter to Secretary Salazar calling for a two-year moratorium on rig removals.
â€œWe are grateful to all the elected officials who share our concern for this marine habitat and are willing to fight against arbitrarily dismantling the largest artificial reef system in the world,â€ said Pat Murray, president of CCA. â€œThe entire issue of platform removals needs a much more thorough review given the incredible habitat at stake. Political leaders and experts from across the spectrum have voiced serious concerns about the impacts of the Idle Iron directive and are demanding a more reasoned process to evaluate these structures.â€
Florida Saltwater Fishing Panel
Data... it runs the world. Everyone needs accurate and up to date data to run a business and make decisions. It is no different for fisheries managers that create the fishing regulations that we abide by, which is why Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Recreational Marine Research Center at Michigan State University have developed the Florida Saltwater Fishing Panel. This panel will help aide the researchers in learning more about recreational fishing and the economic benefits gained from the recreational fisherman in Florida.
Many of you received an email within the last week regarding this panel that included a link to a registration page, and some of you have already signed on to participate. The panel is open to anyone that possesses a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License or Persons with Disabilities Resident Hunting and Fishing License, as well as exempt residents age 65 and older. â€œFWC is excited about the partnership with Michigan State University and the new opportunities that present themselves to us and all fisheries managers,â€ said Nick Wiley, FWC Executive Director. â€œThe Florida Saltwater Fishing Panel brings a new and exciting aspect to recreational fishing data collection.â€ A panel member will be asked to complete a 10-15 minute web based survey once a month for a one year period. While most of each survey will focus on the anglers last saltwater fishing trip in Florida during the previous month, surveys may also include questions about current or proposed fishing regulations, licenses, conservation of fish stocks and management effectiveness.
All panel members will receive a coupon from West Marine for each monthly survey they complete. Participants will also have the opportunity to review summary results from the monthly surveys. â€œI urge all CCA members, their family, and friends to take part in this saltwater fishing panel,â€ said Jeff Miller, CCA Florida Chairman. â€œJoining the panel and completing the survey helps show the economic impact the recreational fishermen have here in the state of Florida. It helps show the fisheries managers that allocation of fish should not be based on past catch records but allocated solely on the economic impact from a fishing sector. Recreational fishermen deserve more and here is a perfect opportunity to do your part in fisheries data collection.â€
Act Now to Stop the Destruction of Marine Habitat
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) shares the concerns of the recreational angling community and is calling for a temporary moratorium on the Department of Interiors controversial Idle Iron directive that stands to destroy the largest man-made reef in the world - the vast forest of rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Coastal Conservation Association applauds this effort by Rep. Palazzo as well as the support of other important Congressional leaders, and has been joined by the largest marine conservation, tackle and boating organizations in the country in the fight to protect this extensive artificial reef system. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of structures are on the chopping block as a result of the Idle Iron policy. A typical four-legged platform becomes the equivalent of two to three acres of vibrant habitat in the Gulf - home to populations of fish, coral, shellfish, turtles and sea mammals.
Rep. Palazzo is circulating a letter to members of Congress and inviting them to join him in calling for a temporary moratorium on rig removals related to the Idle Iron Policy to allow time to develop a thoughtful, rational process to evaluate those structures and keep as many as safely possible in the water. The letter has the support of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus leadership.
Please join Rep. Palazzo, CCA and the community of recreational anglers and divers fighting to protect these unique ecosystems. Click on the link below to send a message to your elected representatives and encourage them to add their signatures to the letter to the Department of Interior calling for a moratorium.
Click the link below to log in and send your message:
Historic Sinking of the USCGC Mohawk
Creates First Dedicated Veterans Memorial Reef using a Military Ship
Coastal Conservation Association Florida and the Lee County Department of Natural Resources partnered to deploy the USCGC Mohawk to its final resting place. The 165-foot World War II Coast Guard Cutter, "Mohawk" was the last remaining ship of the Battle of the Atlantic. The Mohawk was laid to rest in 90 feet of water on July 2, 2012 at 12:36 PM roughly 28 nautical miles off of Sanibel Island on Floridas southwest coast, creating the first Veterans Memorial Reef dedicated to all U.S. veterans. The reef will be the new home to untold numbers of fish and other invertebrates living in the Gulf of Mexico.
CCA Florida chartered the 90 "Great Getaway" that transported over 100 passengers to the deployment site. The passengers included USCG 2nd Class Petty Officer Edward March who served on the Mohawk for 15 months during WWII, his family, local veterans, members of the media, local and state dignitaries and elected officials as well as CCA members from across the state of Florida. â€œThe feeling was surreal as the cutter slipped below the surface,â€ said CCA Chairman Jeff Miller. â€œThis moment marked the ending to a long and historical life above water and the beginning of a new life as an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico.â€
Fisherman and scuba divers alike are very excited about the new artificial reef. â€œWith more fish in the Gulf of Mexico comes the need for more habitat,â€ said Don Roberts, CCA Florida Habitat Chairman. â€œThe sinking of the Mohawk will bring a new home to fish and marine life as well as new opportunities for fishermen and scuba divers from all over the world. The ship was an amazing site and looked as if she was ready for action.â€ The Mohawk was laid to rest with a fresh coat of wartime camouflage paint along with her anchor chains, props, replica guns, replica depth charges and a even a new whale boat was added. The official name of the reef is the U.S.S. Mohawk CGC Veterans Memorial Reef and the coordinates are 82°43'42.347"W 26°33'14.64"N.
The Mohawk was built in 1934 for patrol and icebreaking duties in the Hudson and Delaware rivers. During WWII, the USS Mohawk was commissioned for escort operations and traveled the world defending her country until 1945. The Mohawk launched 14 attacks on German submarines, rescued more than 300 survivors from torpedoed ships and was the last vessel to radio Gen. Dwight Eisenhower that the weather would be clear enough to launch the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
â€œCCA Florida was honored to have the opportunity to participate in this historical event,â€ said Brian Gorski, CCA Florida Executive Director. â€œCCA Florida would like to thank Mike Campbell and the Lee County Department of Natural Resources for all of their time and effort in establishing the U.S.S. Mohawk CGC Veterans Memorial Reef.â€
CCA Florida salutes the members that served on the USCGC Mohawk along with all other service men and women that have served or are currently serving to protect the United States of America.
Southeast Fishery Bulletin
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
727-824-5305, FAX 727-824-5308 FB12-048
NOAA Fisheries Service Announces an Extension to the
Gulf of Mexico Recreational Red Snapper Season
NOAA Fisheries Service announces that the closure date for the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season is being extended six days. The new closure time is 12:01 a.m. local time, July 17, 2012.
Landings and effort data are not available in-season to estimate if the recreational red snapper quota will be met on July 10. However, the north-central Gulf of Mexico has experienced extended severe weather during the first 26 days of the 2012 recreational red snapper fishing season, including Tropical Storm Debby. A substantial portion of recreational red snapper harvest in the Gulf of Mexico comes from the north-central Gulf of Mexico, thus NOAA Fisheries Service expects fishing effort and landings have been less than initially projected.
Wind speed and wave height data from four buoys stationed throughout the Gulf of Mexico were used as proxies for determining days when fishing did not occur or when effort was reduced. Wave height was the most consistent difference between 2011 and 2012. Days with wave heights greater than 4
feet was used as the proxy to indicate fishing days lost. Weather was not as much of a factor in the western Gulf of Mexico, and this was considered in the calculations as well. Assuming weather in the eastern Gulf of Mexico will improve, and fishing effort returns to expected rates, NOAA Fisheries Service projects the recreational fishing season for the entire Gulf of Mexico can be extended an additional six days.
This bulletin provides only a summary of the information regarding the rule. Any discrepancies between this bulletin and the rule published in the Federal Register will be resolved in favor of the Federal Register.
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6919 Portwest, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2012 CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH
Florida Senators Join Call for Snapper Season Extension
Stretch of bad weather impacts already short Gulf red snapper season
WASHINGTON, DC â€“ A stubborn tropical system that impacted the eastern Gulf of Mexico for more than a week in late June put a significant dent in the shortest red snapper season on record and prompted Floridas two U.S. Senators to write a letter to the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requesting an extension to the season.
â€œWeve spoken at length about the red snapper fishery and its economic impact in the state of Florida. Fishing is more than a job in the Gulf of Mexico â€“ it is a way of life,â€ wrote Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. â€œShortened seasons, decreased bag limits, and closures severely impact these coastal communities. We urge you to ensure that fishermen arent unfairly disadvantaged by weather that is out of their control, and extend the red snapper season accordingly.â€
The request by Nelson and Rubio is accompanied by a similar letter from 17 members of the U.S. House of Representatives also seeking an extension of the season.
â€œYou cant do anything about the weather and even without a tropical system stirring things up, you can lose a lot of days out on the water just because of high wind and waves,â€ said Jeff Miller, chairman of CCA Florida and owner of Millers Boating Center in Ocala, Florida. â€œA 40-day season does not leave much margin for error, and to be kept off the water for a week or more really impacts this region economically. I am glad that our elected officials are keeping an eye on this and thank them for going to bat for us. Hopefully NOAA Fisheries is listening.â€
Compounding anglers frustration is mounting evidence that the snapper population is the healthiest it is been in recent history, with fishermen finding snapper in places they have never appeared before and catching the two-fish limit literally in minutes.
â€œYou cant get a bait past them if you can get out there,â€ said Miller. â€œBeyond the impact of this recent spate of bad weather, someone really needs to look at how we are managing this fishery. Im all for rebuilding the fishery and proceeding with caution, but the current regulations seem way behind the curve. This is a success story for fisheries management, but they are still clamping down on it like its a collapsed stock. It just doesnt make sense.â€
The 2012 red snapper season opened on June 1 and is scheduled to close around July 11. To see a copy of the Nelson/Rubio letter, click HERE.
6919 Portwest, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2012 CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH
CCA applauds Idle Iron language in Sportsmens Act
Legislation takes valuable step in protecting marine habitat
As a result of consistent pressure and engagement by Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and its partners, language that begins to address the critical issue of Gulf rig and platform removals has been included in the Sportsmen's Act of 2012. Congressional Sportsman Caucus Chairs Senators Jon Tester (D-Mt) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced the Sportsmen's Act of 2012 as an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill (S. 3240) this week.
â€œThere is an immediate need to halt these removals and CCA is actively working to put a moratorium in place,â€ said Pat Murray, president of CCA National. â€œAs part of that overall strategy, this legislation includes a new plan for the Department of Interior to send a report to Congress on how it is going to assess this critical habitat before indiscriminately ripping out these artificial reefs. Something has to be done to make the federal government realize it is making a horrible mistake destroying this valuable habitat.â€
In a misguided response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron directive in October of 2010 ordering that all non-producing rigs and platforms be plugged and any remaining structure removed within five years of the issuance of that directive. Since then, CCA has worked on and supported a number of efforts to derail the negative impacts of the Idle Iron Policy, including the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Ms), the recent decision by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and letters of opposition from Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to the Department of Interior. Earlier this week, CCA and a coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups called for a moratorium on the Idle Iron Policy in a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar,
â€œInclusion of Idle Iron language in the Sportsmens Act is yet another step towards our goal and we are grateful to Senators Tester and Thune for including this section in the Sportsmens Package. It raises the visibility of an issue that is of great importance to recreational anglers,â€ said Murray.
Passage of the Sportsmens Act would require the Department of Interior (DOI) to coordinate with relevant federal and state agencies and accredited marine research institutes to assess the biodiversity and critical habitat present at platforms and related structures subject to removal, and assess the potential impacts of their removal. DOI would also have to develop a report on the potential impacts that the removal of those structures would have on the rebuilding plans for Gulf reef fish and habitat. Ultimately, the Secretary of Interior would also have to submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a final report that includes a description of public comments from regional stakeholders, including recreational anglers, divers, offshore oil and gas companies, marine biologists, and commercial fisherman, as well as options to mitigate potential adverse impacts on marine habitat associated with that removal.
The Sportsmens Act of 2012 contains a number of other components beneficial to hunting and recreational fishing and shooting. In addition to the Idle Iron language, the Act also contains a section containing the Billfish Conservation Act and a section that specifically excludes ammo and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act.