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Our Association sometimes finds itself in the middle of an issue on which we have many members on both sides. That is case with one of the new regulations the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission proposed at its June, 2013 meeting relating to tarpon fishing,  which applies particularly during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. We want our members to be informed and understand how and why CCA Florida formulates its positions on these issues.

Differing methods of fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass have engendered impassioned feelings and emotions for decades now. Over 10 years ago, the FWCC commissioned a study to see if there was a difference in release mortality between tarpon caught in the old, traditional method – using live bait – and those caught using jigs. That study, which was peer reviewed, concluded that there is no significant difference in release mortality between the 2 methods. On the basis of that study – which remains the only such study of which we are aware – CCA Florida adopted the position that no additional regulations governing methods of fishing for tarpon were warranted.

That study has now been discredited to some degree – completely so in the view of some. If one assumes that the study was flawed, that does not mean that the opposite conclusion is now true – it means that we are back to having no study that establishes anything. Nonetheless, the FWCC has decided to propose some new rules for tarpon fishing. CCA Florida supported the new rule making tarpon a catch and release fishery, and we are in complete support of the proposed rule prohibiting the snagging of tarpon (although our position is that only the intentional snagging of tarpon should be prohibited as every angler unintentionally foul hooks/snags a fish at some point).

The last proposed rule would limit the use of bottom weighted jigs while fishing for tarpon, which is a popular method used during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. CCA Florida’s Government Relations Committee – which is made up of 45 members from across our entire State – voted unanimously not to support this new rule – the entire rationale in doing so is that there simply is no scientific evidence demonstrating a need for the new rule. Insisting that the management of our fisheries be pursued using credible science has served us well, and the charged emotions involved in the Boca Grande tarpon fishery are no basis for us to change that approach.

Regarding Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 14, Action 2 - Modify the fishing year for the black sea bass recreational sector –
It goes without saying that in a year-round fishery the start date has little impact. However we will not likely see a year round fishery for black sea bass again and a uniform start date will inevitably disadvantage one area compared to another.    We believe the Council should set the season length and perhaps a framework of time when the season can be open and allow the states to set their season to best suit their fisheries.  

Regarding Action 3 of Amendment 14 - Modify the recreational accountability measure for black sea bass –
This is a common action in several Amendments, and our position on all of them is that the Council should adopt uniform Accountability Measures for recreational fisheries that have these three essential elements:

1.  The season should be set based on when the ACT is projected to be met;
2.  Should overages in the ACL occur, payback provisions should only be implemented if the stock is overfished; the entire ACL is exceeded; and if the recreational harvest is responsible for the ACL overage.
3.  If the overage occurs in three consecutive years, paybacks in the following year should be implemented until the overages cease.  

Regarding Action 4 and Action 5 of Amendment 14 -   
We believe that when feasible, the commercial and recreational season should start at the same time.

Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 1 - Revise acceptable biological catches (ABCs), annual catch limits (ACLs), and annual catch targets (ACTs) for dolphin and wahoo -  
We believe the use of MRIP in setting catch limits is the appropriate action and support Alternative 2.  

Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 2 - Revise the accountability measures (AMs) for dolphin and wahoo –
We are concerned that the Accountability Measure for the commercial fishery is open-ended no matter which alternative is selected.  As long as the fishery is not overfished and the total ACL is not exceeded, overages could occur annually which would be a de facto allocation shift.  Similar to the language we suggest for recreational AMs, serial overages must be eliminated and paybacks initiated after 3 years.

Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 3 - Revise the framework procedure in the Dolphin Wahoo Fishery Management Plan –
We believe the ability to use a framework action to adjust catch limits is appropriate and support the adoption of the preferred alternatives 2 and 3.   

In Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5 Action 4 - Establish a commercial trip limit for dolphin in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South Atlantic Council’s area of jurisdiction -  
CCA supported a 3,000-pound commercial trip limit in 2003 as a means to ensure a directed dolphin longline fishery did not develop.  There were concerns of localized depletion by both private rec and for-hire captains.  The Council adopted the trip limit but it was not allowed by NOAA Fisheries.  Our concerns still remain.  We believe a trip limit that would have little impact on the historic dolphin fishery but preventing a longline fishery from developing is still appropriate. We support the adoption of a 3,000-pound commercial trip limit for dolphin.  

In Amendment 20 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics FMP - Establish Regional Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) for Atlantic Migratory Group King Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel –
In general, we believe allowing the states to set their own seasons, within a seasonal framework set by the Council, and where feasible have their own quota, is appropriate.  

In Coastal Migratory Pelagics Framework, Action 1 - Modify restrictions on transfer-at-sea and gillnet allowances for Atlantic migratory group Spanish mackerel –
This provision is supposed to take care of the uncommon incidence where a Spanish mackerel gill net boat catches more than the daily trip limit and would allow that Captain to cut the net and transfer it to another federally permitted vessel, thus reducing dead discards.

This seems to be a clear “slippery slope” action that would be difficult at best to enforce.  The Advisory Panel did not like it and we do not believe this action is appropriate. We believe it makes much more sense for the Council re-examine the use of gill nets as allowable gear in the Spanish mackerel fishery if this problem persists.  

Amendments to the Fishery Management Plans for Snapper Grouper, Dolphin Wahoo, Coral, and Coastal Migratory Pelagics

All public hearings are scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, August 7
Doubletree Hotel
2080 N. Atlantic Avenue
Cocoa Beach, FL  32931
Phone: 321-783-9222

Thursday, August 8
Hilton Key Largo Resort
97000 South Overseas Highway
Key Largo, FL 33037
Phone: 305-852-5553


Coastal Conservation Association Comments to Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council  Public Hearings on Amendment 39 Regional Management of Red Snapper


The concept of regional management of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico has been born out of the frustration felt by many anglers towards federal management. By almost any account, red snapper are more abundant now than perhaps at any point in history. Management has finally worked and no one wants to go back to the days when red snapper were small and hard to find. On the other hand, no one should be content with a management regime that is unable to find a way to reap the benefits of success.

CCA supports driving management of marine resources to the lowest level of government possible, ideally to the state level. That position is staked in the belief that the states simply have a better grasp of how to manage these resources in ways that ensure their health and stability. At the same time, state agencies have proven their expertise in providing the greatest access to those resources and maximizing the benefits of those resources for their citizens. Almost every one of this country’s great marine conservation success stories has been engineered by the states.

Contrast that against our experiences with NOAA Fisheries.  After decades of management, participants in the red snapper fishery were rewarded with a 27-day season and a two-fish bag limit. Proposals were even made that to reduce the bag limit to one fish in an effort to increase the number of days in the recreational season and prevent a widespread revolt against federal management. While season length is indeed crucial to the recreational sector, days alone do not make a quality fishery. We believe the individual states are best equipped to determine the management approach best suited to their residents. The current situation is unacceptable, and that is with a fishery that by all accounts is recovering wildly. Rather than hoping that NOAA Fisheries will someday figure out how to copy the success of the states, we believe that this proposal to allow the states to take greater control of management could provide a solution.

The transfer of management responsibility would be no easy task, and countless details remain to be fully explored. Issues over enforcement, monitoring, state boundaries and compliance will have to be fully resolved. However, CCA believes that the best results will be achieved through negotiations between the states themselves, with as little federal influence as possible.  Additionally, in the development of this proposal it should be specified that states have the ability to manage the entire fishery – both recreational and commercial – including decisions on eliminating the IFQ program - as they see fit. Another option that the Gulf Council could consider is simply removing red snapper from the Reef Fish Management plan as they have recently removed stone crabs; anchor and blackline tilefish; red and rock hind; misty grouper; and schoolmaster, dog and mahogany snapper. Such action would also allow each Gulf state to optimize the use of red snapper to the highest benefit of their residents and economies.

Recreational anglers have more faith in the ability of the states to successfully manage our marine resources than in NOAA Fisheries. If enacted correctly, CCA views state-based management as a potential path to achieving our overriding goal of healthy marine resources and increased access to them for the greatest benefit of the public.

The remaining public hearing schedule for Reef Fish Amendment 39 is as follows:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Holiday Inn Select
2001 N. Cove Boulevard
Panama City, FL

Thursday, August 8, 2013*
Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel
64 South Water Street
Mobile, AL

Monday, August 12, 2013*
Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Parkway
950 Lake Carillon Drive
St. Petersburg, FL

All meetings begin at 6:00 pm and will conclude at the end of public comment,but no later than 9:00 pm.

NOTE: * Denotes the meeting will cover Recreational Regional Management of Red Snapper as well as Amendments 19 & 20 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan.

Can't attend any of the meetings? Comments on Reef Fish Amendment 39 will also be accepted online at https://bit.ly/177mEcD.

Copies of the public hearing documents can be obtained by calling 813-348-1630, or by visiting www.gulfcouncil.org.

RECOMMENDATION - Based on the information provided in the Manatee County Plan Amendment Summary, CCA Florida believes that the project will cause major damage to marine habitat in the immediate area; therefore we oppose the proposed Plan Amendment for the Long Bar Pointe project.

 
COMMENTS AND REASONS FOR OPPOSITION
 
The Long Pointe Bar, LLP development already had approved 1,086 single family homes and 2,531 Multi-family homes in 2006. The Plan amendment would add a 300 room hotel, a 300 berth marina, 72,000 square feet of office space, 120,000 square feet of commercial space, and a 84,000 square foot conference center. All of the development would be on 463.2 acres. The County memo indicates that 294.7 acres are in the Coastal High Hazard Zone.
 
The County document states that "no development details" have been submitted with the map amendment and the details will be reviewed in the later stages of the review process."
 
This shoreline is one of the last undeveloped shorelines in the area with vast mangroves and sea grasses. Details about the marina construction and location are not included. Two options are possible. One would be to dredge a canal through the shallow waters, sea grasses and mangroves to an upland dug out basin. Another would be to construct piers extending outward from the shoreline. Substantial dredging would be needed in any case. The amount of dredging in either case would be highly damaging to the mangroves and seagrasses. This special marine habitat formed by the mangroves, seagrasses, oysters and other species are essential habitat for snook, redfish, seatrout, juvenile snapper and grouper as well as countless aquatic animals.
 
The next public hearing on the project is on August 6, 2013. The hearing was changed from the County Commission Chambers to accommodate the expected large crowd in opposition to the project.

CLOSING COMMENTS
 
The applicant already has a large project previously approved. The major additions included in the amendment, especially the 300 berth marina will have a significant adverse impact on the marine environment. CCA Florida opposes the approval of the Plan amendment by the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners.
 
 
Voice your opposition at the upcoming Manatee County Commission Meeting
August 6, 2013 - 1:30 PM - Bradenton Area Convention Center
 
 
If you cannot attend the Commission Meeting, please e-mail your concerns to Commission Chairman, Larry Bustle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CCA moves to intervene in red snapper lawsuit

CCA National Executive Board approves legal action

 

HOUSTON, TX (7-30-13) – The National Executive Board of Coastal Conservation Association has voted to intervene on behalf of recreational anglers in a lawsuit filed by Gulf commercial fishing interests against the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Department of Commerce. The lawsuit challenges the National Marine Fisheries Service’s policy of managing recreational anglers with seasons, size limits and bag limits in the red snapper fishery.

 

Following the decision, CCA released this statement:

This lawsuit was filed by a select few commercial fishermen who profit from the sale of this resource, and they are seeking greater restrictions on the recreational angling sector to protect their privileged position,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “It is unfortunate that it is again necessary for us to engage in legal action to prevent recipients of exclusive commercial fishing rights from using the courts to further restrict or potentially eliminate public access to these recreational fisheries. We cannot afford to ignore the threat that this lawsuit poses to all recreational anglers. An elite and privileged class of commercial harvesters cannot be allowed to dictate how recreational fisheries are managed.”

Click HERE to see a recent CCA press release on the lawsuit.

 

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Catch share proponents attack recreational angling
Lawsuit seeks to restrict Gulf recreational red snapper anglers
 

WASHINGTON DC (7-11-13) – In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., 29 commercial fishermen, seafood processors and trade groups closely associated with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), are seeking to further restrict angling for red snapper. The lawsuit challenges the National Marine Fisheries Service’s policy of managing recreational fishermen with seasons, size limits and bag limits.

“After the shortest recreational seasons in history, it appears that the goal of EDF is to ultimately keep the fishing public off the water as much as possible and by any means necessary, including litigation,” Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “A lawsuit filed by an elite group of snapper barons to protect their financial interests and further restrict recreational participation is probably the last thing we need along the Gulf Coast right now.”

The Environmental Defense Fund has long promoted the concept of catch shares for the commercial industry, which gives businesses a share of the harvest to manage as its own. Catch shares were originally touted to reduce overcapacity and bycatch in the commercial sector, but in the Gulf snapper fishery the program has created a class of “snapper barons” that have bought out smaller operations and now lease their shares back to other fishers. Many no longer actually fish for red snapper and are instead profiting from the lease and sale of a public natural resource that they obtained originally for free. From a high of around 1,800 commercial license holders, currently about 350 people, including many of the plaintiffs listed on the current lawsuit, now claim they own 51 percent of the entire harvest of Gulf red snapper.

“Seasons, size limits and bag limits have been used for decades with great success by the states in both marine and freshwater fisheries to manage recreational angling. Those tools work,” said Brewer. “What doesn’t work is taking a federal system that is geared almost exclusively to manage commercial fisheries to the pound and trying to apply those same standards to recreational angling. That is the recipe for chaos, and it leads to ridiculous diversions like this lawsuit.”

In contrast to the conditions described in the lawsuit, a red snapper benchmark stock assessment released just a few weeks ago paints a glowing picture of the recovery of Gulf red snapper. In fact, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meets next week in New Orleans to discuss lengthening the recreational season in 2013 because the assessment allows so much increased harvest.

“This lawsuit is not about conserving the stock or rebuilding a fishery or preserving access for the public to a public resource – it’s about a large environmental organization preserving a flawed catch share system for a few commercial entities and greatly restricting Gulf recreational angling, which is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people,” said Brewer. “There is far more to managing a fishery than counting, weighing and selling every dead fish for profit. We cannot allow successful management of our nation’s wild natural resources to be defined in these terms or be dictated to by deep-pocketed environmental groups.”

Over the past several years, Gulf Coast governors, Congressmen and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus have voiced concern and opposition to privatizing wildlife resources and limiting public access to public resources through catch share programs. In 2009, four Gulf governors wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce stating that, “We are concerned that in the desire to adopt and implement catch share systems NOAA has forgotten its most fundamental responsibility under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act—to maximize the net economic value from the use of a public resource. Recreational fishing is an important activity in all of our states, and one that we would like to see continue to grow as a healthy activity for the public. However, we are concerned that NOAA policies could frustrate our ability to do that.”

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Anglers applaud legislation to let states manage Gulf red snapper

Gulf Senators file Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act of 2013

WASHINGTON DC (6-13-2013) – Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) filed legislation today that seeks to transfer responsibility for the management of Gulf red snapper to the Gulf states. The legislation (S.1161) comes two months after the governors of four Gulf states released a joint letter to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate stating that federal management of Gulf red snapper is “irretrievably broken,” and calling for a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management.

“The red snapper fishery is tremendously complicated and has lurched from crisis to crisis under federal management with no end in sight,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of the National Government Relations Committee for Coastal Conservation Association. “We commend Sen. Landrieu for taking the lead to work through the complexity of this issue. She invested a great deal of time to craft a balanced, workable solution that allows the Gulf States to develop a new management approach.”

Federal management of red snapper reached a new low in 2013 when the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced the shortest season ever, even though the snapper population is booming. In response, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi announced various actions to join Texas’ long-standing rejection of federal regulations in state waters, prompting federal authorities to implement punitive measures for those states. Using an emergency rule process, the National Marine Fisheries Service reduced the recreational season to nine days off Louisiana and 12 days off Texas. Both states sued and a federal court overturned the action. The recreational season is now set at 28 days Gulf-wide.

“The reality is that federal fisheries management has a credibility problem. Red snapper has been under federal management for decades and our season this year is 28 days. No one should be satisfied with these results,” said Brewer. “We are grateful that Sen. Landrieu, Sen. Wicker and the Gulf governors heard the concerns of their citizens and pledged to find a better way.”

The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act (S.1161) would establish a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management in which the states would fully comply with a management plan approved and adopted by the Gulf States Marines Fisheries Commission with minimal oversight from the federal government. The partnership would be similar to how striped bass are managed on the East Coast through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

“State-based fishery management has proven to be far more effective, and has engineered some of the greatest marine conservation victories in the country,” said Brewer. “We have faith in the states to be philosophically capable of not only conserving and managing robust fisheries, but also providing greater access to those resources for their citizens.”

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A unique opportunity for Gulf red snapper

New stock assessment a chance for Gulf Council to fix mistakes of the past

HOUSTON (6-12-2013) - In a letter to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, Coastal Conservation Association cites the new red snapper stock assessment as an opportunity for federal managers to fix the mistakes of the recent past by allocating the entire available increase in red snapper annual catch limits to the recreational sector.

“Though this action will not account for the harm that federal mismanagement of the red snapper resource has imposed on anglers across the Gulf, it will begin to repair the damage and begins to recognize the needs and potential of the recreational sector,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee.

While the shortest recreational red snapper seasons on record have cost jobs and revenue for Gulf Coast economies, the commercial sector has thrived under its catch share program in which a handful of businesses own the right to harvest 51 percent of the annual quota of red snapper in the Gulf. The greatly expanded catch limits that have been proposed present a unique opportunity for the Gulf Council to also address the outdated allocation of red snapper, which was last set in the mid-1980s. A report by Gentner Consulting Group that looked at the increase in potential economic value and total sales from allocating 75 and 100 percent of the increases available makes an overwhelming case for the recreational sector.

“The Council has shown little willingness to address reallocation of this or any fishery for a variety of reasons, but primarily because reallocating usually means one side wins and the other loses. Allocating increases in annual catch limits (ACL) avoids that scenario,” said Brewer. “In this case, the commercial sector, which is operating under a catch share system that has dramatically decreased the number of participants in the fishery, is not impacted while the recreational sector, which has increased significantly in size and economic significance since the fishery was allocated in the mid-1980s, is given the resources to fulfill its role as an economic engine for the Gulf states in 2013 and beyond.”

The Gulf Council’s Science and Statistical Committee has endorsed an annual catch limit (ACL) of 13.5 million pounds of red snapper for 2013, an 11.9 million pound ACL for 2014 and a 10.6 million pound ACL for 2015. However, CCA is advocating that the Council average the ACL at 12 million pounds for the next three years to avoid the “yo-yo” regulations that have characterized the fishery in the recent past.

“The track record speaks for itself – we don’t believe the federal government has the ability to manage this fishery with any degree of accuracy or reliability. Averaging the increase to 12 million pounds over the next three years presents the best opportunity for stability in this fishery for the first time in a very long time,” said Brewer. “Ironically, the recreational sector has been criticized repeatedly and vigorously for not being ‘accountable.’ The lack of accountability seems to lie with the federal management regime that has forced the most severely limited fishing seasons ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico that we now see were largely not based on good science.”

The new assessment shows the significant increases are the result of fishing mortality rates that have averaged about 56 percent of what would have been a sustainable rate consistent with the rebuilding plan over the past six years.

“The federal management methods of the past – infrequent and inadequate monitoring of stock health and efforts to count every fish caught recreationally to produce an undependable harvest estimate in pounds – have been shown to be unworkable and grossly inaccurate,” said Brewer. “There is no indication that federal management is willing or able to do anything different, which is one of the reasons CCA supports moving management responsibility of red snapper to the individual states as a way to ultimately correct a management process gone awry. Combined with the efficiency and efficacy of state management, this increased allowance for the recreational sector should begin to repair the damage created by past mismanagement of this resource.”