For Immediate Release Contacts: Alex Conant / Brooke Sammon
Thursday, February 28, 2013 (202) 224-3041
SENATOR RUBIO ASKS FOR REVIEW OF STOCK ASSESSMENTS TO PROTECT FISHERIES AND FISHING COMMUNITIES IN GULF
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and senators from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and North Carolina today sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting a review of how the Department of Commerce conducts stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. The stock assessments conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service are critical in maintaining the vitality of the fisheries, the fishing communities, and related industries in Florida and the region.
“Stock assessments are the foundation of sound fishery management,” said Rubio. “It is vital that, as we work to preserve the waters and resources surrounding Florida and other states, we base our management decisions on sound science. The report we’ve requested today will shed light on the decision-making process within the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will help us to determine the best path forward so that we can ensure the economic livelihood of the fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic and the industries that depend on them.”
Rubio is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. The letter is signed by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), David Vitter (R-LA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) and can be viewed by clicking here.
WHAT INDUSTRY EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
“Fishing organizations in the southeast, both commercial and recreational, salute Senator Marco Rubio for leading the effort to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) to provide the basic science needed for honest stock assessments,” said Bob Jones, Executive Director of Southeastern Fisheries Association. “The numbers of fish calculated in the federal waters through stock assessments are critical in determining quotas, seasons, allowable gear, bycatch and all aspects pertaining to the commercial and recreational harvest of seafood. The fishing and tourism industry dependent on fresh local seafood thanks all the Senators who are working to improve the management of our sustainable marine resources.”
“As Chairman of the Data Collection Committee at the Gulf Council, I see first-hand how our lack of updated fisheries data strikes at the heart of our ability to make sound management decisions that protect both our natural resources AND our fishermen,” said Harlon Pearce, member of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. “We need to get to the bottom of where our data collection resources are being spent and this full GAO investigation is a great step in the right direction.”
“Robust biological and socioeconomic data are critical to the management of our nation’s fisheries,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “Unfortunately this information has been lacking for many important fisheries, particularly those in the southeast. ASA is grateful that Senator Rubio understands the need for improved science to drive management and is working towards that end.”
“Sound science matters,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “Senator Rubio’s leadership brings focus to the critical need for science-based management of America’s marine fishery resources.”
FACTS ABOUT THE FISHING INDUSTRY:
Call to Action
CCA Florida would like for our members to become involved and voice their opinions in a very important issue that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and Chairman Wright are spearheading. FWC will hold webinars concerning Sport Fish and Game Fish designations on December 10th and 12th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The FWC is asking for your help and would like for you to join in and give your comments. Some of the aspects of the Game Fish and Sport Fish designations have received mixed reviews among Florida anglers and we need your input. CCA will continue to work closely with FWC concerning this issue. Your comments are very important and CCA Florida encourages you to participate and voice your opinion.
Please click HERE to see the full press release regarding the webinars and how to attend them. If you have any questions please contact Trip Aukeman at 850-559-0060.
Please click HERE to review the FWC's Game Fish and Sport Fish PowerPoint presentation as well as the following press release that the FWC sent out following their December 5th meeting in which the Game Fish and Sport Fish Designations were discussed.
For immediate release: December 5, 2012
Contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943
FWC Commission considering creating saltwater game fish and sport fish designations
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed the possibility of creating saltwater game fish and sport fish designations at its Dec. 5 Commission meeting in Apalachicola. After public comment from 18 people and the Commissioners’ discussion, the FWC decided to approve the proposed draft rule about the designation. The Commission will possibly make a final decision on this measure at its February meeting in Orlando.
While Florida has many recreationally important species, it does not have an official saltwater game fish or sport fish designation.
Reasons for considering these changes include helping highlight and protect some of Florida’s premier recreational fish and encouraging anglers to adopt voluntary conservation practices such as catch-and-release. If adopted, these changes could lead to healthier fish populations and help Florida market its unique fishing opportunities to residents and visitors.
“I think it’s an opportunity for this Commission to create a lasting legacy,” said Chairman Kenneth Wright. “I think it will send a signal to fishermen around the world that we are a world-class fishing destination.”
At the meeting, staff presented the Commission with potential game fish and sport fish definitions and described how fish within these designations could be managed.
Suggested parameters for game fish would include no commercial harvest, possession or sale.
The sport fish designation would offer a higher level of protection than game fish by making selected species catch-and-release only, including no recreational harvest as well as no commercial harvest, possession or sale.
Before moving forward with the proposal, the Commission decided to remove a parameter that would have limited gear to hook-and-line only for both designations. They also removed another parameter that was proposed for the game fish designation only that would have required captain and crew of for-hire vessels such as charter boats to have a bag limit of zero and not be allowed to take fish home for themselves.
Which fish species will be included under the game fish or sport fish designations will not be decided at the February Commission meeting. If game fish and sport fish designations are approved, staff will return to future meetings with suggestions for potential fish species candidates.
Recreational fishing in Florida has a high cultural and economic value, and protecting Florida’s premier recreational fish is a priority of the Commission.
. Learn more by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing – click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops.”
November 28, 2012Dr. Jane LubchencoUnder Secretary of Commerce for Oceans andAtmosphere and NOAA AdministratorHerbert Clark Hoover Building14th Street & Constitution Avenue, N.W.Room 5128Washington, DC 20230
Dear Dr. Lubchenco:
We in the sportfishing community were appreciative of the effort you and Eric Schwaab made to improve communication and relationships through the Saltwater Recreational Summit held in Virginia at the beginning of your term as Administrator of NOAA. There were many important commitments made at that meeting, particularly ones made by you. While you have followed through on some of those commitments, there is one very notable exception that is quite concerning to us.
At that meeting in 2010, you noted that the allocation process between sport and commercial fisheries was "rusted shut" and many mixed sector fisheries are operating on outdated allocations based on history rather than optimizing socioeconomic values for the future. You stated that if we are really serious about maximizing jobs and economic value for the future, we have to address this issue regularly and with a standardized, analytical approach.
While we were pleased to have Eric follow up and commission former State Director George Lapointe to survey many of us as to what approaches would be needed, we were concerned that many on the Fishery Management Councils and some NOAA Fisheries Service staff opposed this effort and did not want the issue of allocation systematically reviewed. This pushback was expected, and is symptomatic of the agency culture that has always favored a stable commercial fishery and regarded the sportfish industry as an after-thought. It is this culture that locked in allocations in the first place.
We understand that the report prepared by Mr. Lapointe was submitted to NOAA Fisheries almost a year ago and, as far as we can tell, no meaningful action has been taken on it since submission. We are writing you to express our continuing apprehension that your first term as NOAA Administrator may expire without action on reallocation. There is still time to follow through and complete the development of a systematic framework to regularly review allocation, but it clearly requires your continuing commitment and leadership to unlock the inner workings of NOAA Fisheries that are rusted shut on this issue.
Please review this important situation and ensure that your commitment to us at the Summit has not been lost in process. Good progress on this issue was made initially, but we must guard against defenders of the status quo smothering this initiative with inertia and inaction.
You have asked us to hold you and Eric accountable to these commitments and while we are respectfully doing that, we are also offering our assistance to keep this process moving forward.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
Mike Nussman, President
American Sportfishing Association
Pat Murray, President
Coastal Conservation Association
Jeff Angers, President
Center for Coastal Conservation
Jeff Crane, President
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Rob Kramer, President
International Game Fish Association
Thom Dammrich, President
National Marine Manufacturers Association
Jim Martin, President
Berkley Conservation Institute
CCA Applauds FWC for Uncovering Commercial Illegal Wildlife Ring
For immediate release: November 14, 2012
Contact: Katie Purcell
FWC Community Relations Coordinator
Division of Law Enforcement
FWC Investigation Uncovers Illegal Commercial Wildlife Ring
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers completed a comprehensive investigation Wednesday that included more than 200 criminal violations by 21 individuals in Orange, Lake, Osceola, Polk and St. Lucie counties. The 22-month operation targeted individuals who illegally bought fish and wildlife products in Florida and shipped them out of state to be sold to the public.
“The suspects were ultimately working together in a criminal conspiracy,” said Maj. Curtis Brown, head of the FWC’s Investigations section.
Officers determined the suspects were buying products from poachers and unlicensed individuals and shipping them to markets out of state. Today, they shut them down. Those out-of-state markets are still being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“This was a large-scale illegal poaching operation with serious implications for the environment, economy and public health,” Brown said.
The suspects made one or two trips a month, transporting 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of product each trip to its markets.
“They placed orders that included one for 900 pounds of poached white-tailed deer and another for 500 pounds of illegal snook,” Brown said.
To date, the operation has identified 21 suspects. The criminal charges include 147 misdemeanor violations and 75 felony violations. Ten suspects were arrested and taken to local county jails today; the rest were issued notices to appear.
Undercover officers successfully infiltrated the illegal operations and were able to gather sufficient evidence of the crimes. The species involved include grouper, snapper, trout, redfish, snook, bass, bream, catfish, deer, turkey, ducks and alligator.
“Some of those are restricted species,” Brown said. “Over-harvesting, taking them out of season or taking them by illegal methods harms the resource, undermining conservation efforts.”
The FWC says shutting down illegal operations like this is also important for public health. When game is harvested and sold illegally, it does not go through the same processes or undergo the same food health inspections necessary to protect the public.
“The public has a right to purchase safe, legally harvested products without concern for the safety of their food,” Brown said.
Shutting down this operation also benefits the local economy. Illegal activities can seriously impact legal businesses.
“For example, there are deer farmers and commercial fishermen who harvest and sell their products legally,” Brown said. “Individuals who operate illegally often sell their products cheaper, essentially stealing profits from the law-abiding businesses.”
In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the FWC worked with partner organizations including the National Wild Turkey Federation, Humane Society of the United States and Ducks Unlimited.
“This was a great team effort to support our legal commercial markets, protect Florida’s valuable natural resources and allow the public to safely enjoy them,” Brown said.
The public can help by reporting to the FWC suspected violations of illegally harvesting or selling fish and wildlife. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert hotline (888) 404-FWCC or
October 11, 2012
Re: Gulf of Mexico Gag Grouper Management
We understand that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has asked for the input of the Commission on the management of gag grouper in the Gulf. We view this as a long overdue concession in light of the vast majority of gags being landed from the Gulf of Mexico waters are landed on Florida shores, and an effective way to avoid any inconsistency between state and federal regulations. We would like to share with you our views on the ongoing management of gags in the Gulf.
Perhaps the biggest issue we have had with the management of gags to date (as well as certain other species) has been the lack of an allocation between sectors that is not only fair but also provides the greatest benefit to our state and the nation. All analyses of the relative economic impacts of the recreational and commercial sectors for gags have overwhelmingly shown the greatest impact to come from the recreational sector. We reject as patently unfair the idea that those who exploit a public resource for profit should be able to do so while the public realizes not even a reasonable season or reasonable size or bag limits. We thus urge the Commission to recommend that the Gulf Council promptly re-allocate the allowable catch of gag grouper fairly and to allow for the greatest benefit to our state and our nation before the 2013 management regulations are put in place.
A second problem that exists with the commercial take of gags in the Gulf is the lack of protection of the stock during its spawning aggregations. Like a number of animals, gags are known to be "harem breeders", meaning that a single dominant male attends to a number of females. These large males tend to be the most aggressive feeders during the spawning aggregations and often caught very early in the spawn, which leaves the spawning potential of the stock well below what it would be if no directed effort were permitted for the commercial sector during the spawn, as is the case with the recreational sector.
We also view the new release devices, such as the SeaQualizer, and techniques that have recently come to light as effective ways to reduce release mortality from the "baro-trauma" that often results in fish caught in deeper waters. The Gulf Council should immediately review the studies that have shown the effectiveness of these new devices and techniques and should permit their use unless concerns that we have not seen are shown to exist.
In terms of a bag limit and the open season for the recreational take of gags, CCA Florida urges the longest possible season and strongly advocates in favor of a no less than a 2 fish bag limit. Because reducing the bag limit to 1 fish will not significantly lengthen the season, we would very much like to see the bag limit stay at 2 fish. Although the split season proposals that we have seen would not provide as long an open season as the single season proposals that we have seen, we recognize that a split season may provide the greatest benefit to the most Floridians and our visitors and we are not opposed to a split season that includes equal summer and winter subseasons with the maximum number of allowable days.
We very much appreciate your service on the Commission and our relationship with you is very important to us. We hope that you will consider these comments in the spirit intended and that you will please contact us to discuss any questions or comments.
CONTACT: Trip Aukeman 850-559-0060
October 09, 2012
Coastal Conservation Association Urges
Judge to Uphold Mesh Size Limitation on Gill Nets
~Commercial netting interests attempt to convince the judge to allow larger mesh~
ST. MARKS, Fla. Commercial netting interests are once again trying to manipulate the State into allowing larger mesh sizes in fishing nets and improperly using them as gill nets, the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida said today.
The commercial fisherman say that as a result of the States regulations on net mesh size, the current nets are catching primarily juvenile fish before they have the chance to mature into adult fish.
The reality, however, is that these commercial fisherman are catching more mullet than they can sell. Earlier this year there was approximately 60,000 pounds of dead mullet found floating off Floridas coast with just the roe taken out. With the market price around 73 cents a pound it cannot withstand any more mullet in the stores or the price would plummet and there would be no profit.
In November 1994, an overwhelming 72 percent of Floridians voted yes on 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 17 years, there are still factions within the commercial industry who refuse to accept the legal reality of the constitutional prohibition on gill nets.
Since 1994, there have been numerous lawsuits, attempts to create enforcement loopholes, and outright scams all designed to invalidate or circumvent provisions of the constitutional amendment. All have failed.
The commercial fishermen have gone to court again in an attempt to overturn key provisions in the 1994 net ban. Hoping to convince Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford of their side of the issue, a St. Marks commercial mullet fisherman took to the waters early one Friday morning to give the Judge a demonstration of the way they fish their nets. The commercial boat was followed by an FWC boat that was transporting Judge Fulford. However, he didnt show her the whole picture.
According to the Coastal Conservation Association, the fisherman spent unnecessary time searching in the St. Marks River inlets, creeks and bays to locate the perfectly sized fish to prove his point. When he found the right spot and cast the nets, he retrieved them like a gill net, instead of properly like a seine net, which caused more of the small fish to be caught in the net and very few legal size fish were caught. Only three net sets were made in about two and a half hours. This manipulated presentation to the judge depicted the idea that the nets are inadequate and the State needs to allow larger mesh netting.
The Florida Legislature, Florida courts and state agencies have upheld the clear intent of Florida voters, said Ted Forsgren, Special Advisor to CCA Florida. It is imperative that Judge Fulford thoroughly reviews all the previous legal decisions and conclusions of law and respect the citizen mandate and constitutional ban on gill nets.
Commercial net fishers have other legal options to catch mullet. Many use hand-thrown cast nets in conjunction with seine nets. The seine nets with two-inch or less mesh corral the fish, which are then caught by the cast nets. Cast nets are also used during fall migrations in rivers and bays when mullet are aggregated in large schools. Landings data confirms the viability of using cast nets and other legal nets. In the four-county area of Wakulla, Franklin, Jefferson and Dixie County commercial fishermen landed 493,614 pounds of mullet in 2011 and 579,027 pounds in 2010. Statewide more than 12.5 million pounds of mullet were landed in 2011.
For more information or to join CCA Florida, please visit CCA Floridas website at www.ccaflorida.org.
South Atlantic Red Snapper Season set to Re-Open
NOAA Fisheries Announces Opening Dates
A fishery that has been closed for three years now due to over-fishing is set to re-open in September of 2012. The South Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council (SAMFC) met in June of 2012 and discussed the options of a short season for Red Snapper in the South Atlantic. The SAMFC recommended to NOAA Fisheries that a limited harvest period be permitted on the east coast. The season will consist of two, three day weekends for recreational anglers, along with a small commercial harvest. CCA supported the opening if doing so would not delay the rebuilding plan or do harm to the stock. CCA told the Council that this fishery is a good candidate formanagement as primarily a recreational fishery in the South Atlantic, and that the greatest overall benefit to the country would be achieved by allocating most, if not all, of the catch to the recreational fishery.
NOAA Fisheries set the new recreational fishing season to open for two consecutive weekendsmade up of Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This season pertains to the South Atlantic Ocean only. The recreational red snapper season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 14, 2012, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 17, 2012; the season then reopens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 21, 2012, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 24, 2012. During the open recreational season, the bag limit is one fish per person per day and there is no minimum size limit for the red snapper.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its research institute (FWRI) will be very involved in data collection on the east coast of Florida. The FWRI is asking that recreational fishermen help with the data as they fish for Red Snapper in the Atlantic Ocean. The FWRI has set up drop off locations along the coast for red snapper carcasses. The Institute will gather critical data from the carcasses, such as age and growth rates, along with the overall health of the fishery. Please do your part for the fishery and instead of throwing the carcass out put them back on ice and take the carcasses to one of the confirmed drop off locations along the eastcoast of Florida. For a list of these and any other locations that have been added please click here. Officers and staff of CCA urge each of you to assist in this data collection, and do not see any negative effect to the recreational fisherman for providing your assistance.
Carcass drop off locations:
Fernandina Harbor Marina
3 S. Front Street
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
St. Johns River entrance
Sister Creek Boat Ramp
8364 Heckscher Dr.
Jacksonville, FL, 32226
Conch House Marina
57 Comares Avenue
St. Augustine, FL 32080
Inlet Harbor Marina
133 Inlet Harbor Road
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
Fishin Cove Marina
111 N Riverside Drive
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
505 Glen Cheek Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
Fort Pierce Inlet:
3595 Northeast Indian River Drive
Jensen Beach, FL 34957