For Immediate Release
WASHINTGON, DC (10-25-13) -- Senator David Vitter (R-La.) announced yesterday that he would “hold” the nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) until he received a commitment that NOAA Fisheries would address the ongoing failure of the Agency to implement its own allocation policies and to provide some leadership and direction to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
The focus of Senator Vitter on the key issue of fisheries allocation was lauded by the leading organizations in marine recreational fishing and boating: Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Ted Forsgren
October 24, 2013 (407)702-3567
CCA FLORIDA OPPOSES THE LATEST ATTEMPT BY COMMERCIAL NETTERS TO CIRCUMVENT THE GILL NET BAN
Once again a small group of commercial netters are trying to get the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to allow larger mesh sizes in nets so they can be used as gill nets. Circuit Court Judge Jackie Lee Fulford has issued a ruling that the use of net mesh size to define the difference between an illegal gill net and a legal seine net is a “legal absurdity” and has enjoined the enforcement of the Constitutional Amendment and the FWC rules implementing it!
“Judge Fulford has simply ignored almost 18 years of legal precedent on the issue and offered her own opinion” said Jim Williams, CCA Florida Chairman. “The 2 inch mesh size used by the FWC to define and clarify the difference between illegal gill nets and legal seine nets has resolved previous enforcement issues and successfully maintained the full intent of the Constitutional Amendment.”
In November of 1994 an overwhelming 72% of Florida voters said “yes” to the Constitutional Amendment limiting marine net fishing. The amendment includes both a prohibition on the use of gill and entangling nets in all state waters and a size limit on other nets. Although the restrictions have been in place for nearly 18 years, there are still small factions within the commercial fishing industry that refuse to accept the legal reality that the constitutional prohibition on gill nets means no gill nets.
Numerous administrative challenges and lawsuits have been filed over the last 18 years in an effort to challenge these regulations and allow the use nets that are currently outlawed. All of the attempts have failed as the Courts have supported the clear intent of the Constitutional Amendment. Early Court decisions have upheld the implementing rules which established a 2 inch size stretched mesh size as the “bright line distinction” between a legal seine net and an illegal gill net. The size was established based on the historic mesh sizes prior to the enactment of the gill net ban. The Courts ruled that the 2 inch maximum size for seine nets was “historically based, rational and practical”.
“The commercial net fishermen in Wakulla County raised concerns about the viability of the allowable cast nets and seines with the 2 inch mesh to catch mullet; however, the commercial landing data shows a very different story” said CCA Florida’s Ted Forsgren. Landings data from the FWC indicate that mullet landings in Wakulla, Franklin, Jefferson, and Dixie Counties were 579,527 pounds in 2010 and 493,614 pounds in 2011. Total statewide landings of mullet in 2011 were 12.5 million pounds.
The Constitutional Amendment and the implementing rules of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have brought inshore finfish populations to high levels of abundance. “Populations of mullet, redfish, sea trout and other fisheries are at all time highs and the increased abundance has allowed the FWC to reduce take restrictions on a number of species” said Forsgren.
“CCA Florida will continue to be the outspoken advocate and protector of the Constitutional Amendment which has protected Florida’s marine fisheries and the multibillion dollar economic impact to Florida’s economy,” said CCA Florida Chairman Jim Williams.
Dr. Russell Nelson, one of Florida’s best scientists and advocates for marine fisheries conservation, passed away unexpectedly, but peacefully at his home in Southeast Florida on October 5th. Russell shared his passion and love of the ocean and our marine resources with his wife, Ellen Peel. Russell is survived by his wife, Ellen, his mother Ruth, daughters Rebecca and Kate and his brothers Randall and Raymond.
Russell was a respected leader and advocate in many of the major conservation battles that improved fisheries in Florida as well as federal and international waters. “We are really going to miss him, his science background and his courage to stand firm for management regulations,” said Ted Forsgren of CCA Florida.
The recent passage of regulations by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) concerning use of the “Boca Jig” has left CCA Florida in the midst of a heated debate (again). We have friends and members on both sides of the issue. Our position, developed by our government relations committee (GRC), is set forth on CCA’s website and reprinted below for ease of reference. In short there were three proposed regulations. We supported two:
The third issue focused on the banning of the “Boca Jig” from use in Boca Grand Pass. Some believe the “Boca Jig” to be a snagging device; while others claim it is not a snagging device. Yet everyone who weighed in on the issue from both sides of the debate to CCA’s GRC stated that they are against snagging Tarpon.
JACKSONVILLE, FL – (10-17-13) – It is not often that the downtown area of a U.S. city is the backdrop for a new reef, but that is exactly where the next marine habitat project funded by Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida) and the CCA national marine habitat program will splash down. In just a few months, two new fishing reefs will be created less than half a mile from the I-95 Bridge over the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.
The total cost of the project is $60,000 and the Jacksonville Chapter of CCA Florida has committed to raising 50 percent of the necessary funding. The Building Conservation Trust, CCA’s national habitat program which has garnered support from country music star Kenny Chesney and Costa Sunglasses among others, has donated the remaining $30,000 to the Jacksonville reefing project.
By Ted Venker
Coastal Conservation Association
Early in October, news came that more than 130 chefs, restaurant owners, fishermen and seafood industry leaders had partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund to launch a new propaganda campaign called "Share the Gulf.” The goal of this benignly labeled effort is to maintain 51 percent of the red snapper harvest for commercial fishermen and 49 percent to recreational fishermen – an allocation that was set using harvest data from the mid-1980s.
Coalition members maintain that any change to allocation could be a blow to commercial fishermen that could take red snapper off restaurant menus and out of grocery stores. Keep in mind, this is an allocation literally set about 30 years ago in a very different time with a very different stock.
"We need to draw a line in the sand," John Schmidt, a Florida-based commercial fisherman and co-chairman of the coalition, said in a recent article. "Recreation groups need to stop taking away America's fish and start managing their fish better."
Just chew on that thought for a moment: Recreational angling groups are taking away America’s fish. Then consider that the commercial red snapper sector is currently comprised of less than 400 “shareholders” who personally own 51 percent of all the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.
A bit infuriating, isn’t it?
Conservationists Applaud Legislation to Let Gulf States Manage Red Snapper
WASHINGTON, DC (9-12-2013) – A bipartisan coalition led by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) introduced legislation today that charts a new course for management of Gulf red snapper, an important commercial and recreational fishery that has been plagued by controversy. Joining Miller and Richmond as original co-sponsors of the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act were Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.); Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.); Blake Farenthold (R-Texas); Bob Latta (R-Ohio); Pete Olson (R-Texas); Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.); Mike Rogers (R-Ala.); Steve Scalise (R-La.); Austin Scott (R-Ga.); Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.); Tim Walz (D-Minn.); Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.). The legislation comes after the governors of four Gulf states released a joint letter to the U.S. House and Senate leadership stating that federal management of Gulf red snapper is “irretrievably broken,” and calling for a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management.
In a sign of broad support for the concept of state-based management of fish and wildlife resources, the entire leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has signed on to the bill. Reps. Latta, Thompson, Walz and Wittman, all co-chairs of the CSC and most representing districts in states far from the Gulf Coast, have seen the need for a change in how federal fisheries are managed.
“Federal management of red snapper has painted itself into a corner. We have a robust red snapper population in the Gulf, but 2013 was as chaotic a season as anglers have ever seen. The season started as the shortest ever, saw a revolt by some states that resulted in even shorter seasons, endured a lawsuit, received a glowing stock assessment and the promise of a fall season, only to crash on wild estimates of overharvest that put the fall season in jeopardy. This is no way to manage a fishery, and this legislation presents a way out of this no-win situation,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “Congressman Miller is a true champion of American anglers for taking the lead on this legislation. His leadership brings a reliable, workable solution that allows the Gulf states to better manage red snapper conservation.”
Federal management of red snapper has been broken for years, and reached rock bottom in 2013 when frustration over status quo management compelled several Gulf states to seek greater control of the fishery in their own waters. In retaliation, the National Marine Fisheries Service used an emergency rule process to reduce the recreational season to nine days off Louisiana and 12 days off Texas. Both states sued and a federal court overturned the action.
“The reality is that federal management of the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishery is fundamentally flawed, and it is negatively impacting anglers and the coastal economies that depend on access to that fishery,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “State-based fishery management has proven to be far more effective, and has engineered some of the greatest marine conservation victories in the country. We are grateful that the Gulf Governors, Reps. Miller, Richmond and the CSC co-chairs are working to give states back the authority to manage this situation.”
The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act would establish a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management through which the states would fully comply with a management plan approved and adopted by the Gulf States Marines Fisheries Commission. The partnership would be similar to how the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages striped bass and how the Gulf states manage red drum.
“There are many examples where a shift to state-based management of a given fishery resource has been called for, producing better results,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “State fish and wildlife management professionals have a strong track record of managing their fishery resources in order to achieve the right balance between sustainability and quality fishing opportunities. The ongoing red snapper debacle in the Gulf is begging for the opportunity to put proven state-based management approaches to work.”
Comments offered today by other coalition leaders:
Coastal Conservation Association - Pat Murray, President
“This is a fishery that has been defined by crisis for decades, and there is nothing that leads one to believe it is likely to change given the current tools and philosophy of federal management,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “This legislation provides an opportunity to break the cycle of crisis management with a viable alternative, and we applaud Rep. Jeff Miller and Rep. Cedric Richmond for their vision crafting a workable solution.”
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation - Steve Stock, President
“The current management regime for Gulf red snapper is unpredictable and ineffective,” said Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation President Steve Stock. “Rep. Miller’s legislation will allow the Gulf states to build fair, predictable red snapper management that will ensure Gulf anglers have reasonable access to this important resource.”
International Game Fish Association - Rob Kramer, President
“Anglers were the first conservationists,” said Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association. “State-based management – closest to the constituency managed – has a proven track record for conservation.”
National Marine Manufacturers Association - Thom Dammrich, President
“Uncertainty in fisheries management translates to uncertainty for fishing-dependent business,” said National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich. “Rep. Jeff Miller’s leadership in addressing the red snapper issue will mean that marine manufacturers, marine dealers, marina operators, and the many businesses that rely on stable saltwater fisheries will have greater opportunities for success.”
Comment period ends August 29, 2013
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would increase the commercial and recreational quotas for Gulf of Mexico red snapper and potentially re-open the recreational season for 2013. The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 14, 2013.
The rule would increase the total allowable catch for harvest of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico from 8.46 million pounds (mp) to 11.0 mp. The commercial quota would be 5.61 mp and the recreational quota would be 5.39 mp. The quotas can be increased because a recent stock assessment for red snapper showed the stock can support higher catches.
The red snapper commercial sector is managed with an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. The increase of 1.295 mp to the commercial quota would be distributed to IFQ shareholders on or shortly after the effective date of the final rule.
The 1.245 mp increase to the recreational quota could allow a supplemental red snapper recreational fishing season, if unused quota is available. The supplemental season would open October 1, 2013, and preliminary projections show fishing could be supported for 21 days, but only if landings did not exceed the previous quota during the June season. The final projections will be received in mid-August. If quota is available, the official dates of the supplemental season will be announced in the final rule for this action.
For more information please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions on the NOAA Fisheries Web site.
Request for Comments
The comment period on this proposed rule will open on August 14, 2013. NOAA Fisheries must receive comments no later than August 29, 2013. We will address all comments specifically directed to the framework action or the proposed rule in the final rule. You may obtain electronic copies of the proposed rule and the framework action from the NOAA Fisheries Web site or the e-Rule Making Portal www.regulations.gov.
How to Submit Comments
You may submit comments on this document, identified by "NOAA-NMFS-2013-0115", by one of the following methods:
All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible.
About Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional Fishery Management Councils established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council prepares fishery management plans, which are designed to manage fishery resources within the 200-mile limit of the Gulf of Mexico.
August --, 2013
Ms. Susan Gerhart,
Southeast Regional Office, NMFS
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
Dear Ms. Gerhart:
I am taking this opportunity to offer the support of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) for the proposed rule that would re-open the recreational red snapper season beginning in October. We understand that the season length may extend for 21 days and believe that allowing this opportunity for accessing this rapidly expanding resource to Gulf of Mexico anglers should be a first step towards affirming the economic and social potential of recreational fishing in the federal waters of the Gulf.
Understanding that the rule would also increase the 2013 TAC from 8.46 to 11 million pounds we concur with the increase, but take the position that the increases allowed in commercial harvest manifested by this change are effective for this single year and do not represent an action that affects the Gulf Council's current deliberation over changes in red snapper allocation. CCA firmly believes that a major re-allocation of harvest privileges between the commercial and recreational sectors will be the only action that will allow this red snapper resource to generate its full potential economic benefits to this nation.
We urge the NMFS to firmly establish the duration of the October season as rapidly as possible so as to allow the angling public to prepare for the season in advance.
Thank you for this opportunity to express our views on this important issue.
Chester Brewer, Chairman
CCA National Government Relations Committee