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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.

 

“There is an immediate need to halt these removals and CCA is actively working to put a moratorium in place,” said Pat Murray, president of CCA National. “As 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.”

 

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,

 

“Inclusion 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,” 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.

 

Click HERE to see the complete Sportsmens Act of 2012 posted on the CCA Rigs to Reefs page.

 

 

 

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     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 18, 2012                                         CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH

Economic studies make convincing case for reallocation 

 

Mountain of evidence points to allocation increases for recreational anglers in the Gulf

    

   With the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council set to review allocations for Gulf red snapper and grouper during its meeting this week in Tampa, Coastal Conservation Association has presented a summary of 19 studies going back to 2000 that show the economic benefits of shifting a greater portion of the allocation of these two species to the recreational sector. All of the studies, conducted by private, academic and government scientists, have been presented to the Gulf Council previously and the Council has chosen to take no affirmative action.

 

"We're not talking about one or two studies, we're talking about an overwhelming body of work spanning  more than a decade by some of the most respected  economists in fisheries management," said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCAs National Government Relations Committee. "The best available economic science clearly supports increasing the recreational allocation. It is difficult to understand why NOAA Fisheries has not acted on these studies before now to produce the best possible outcome for the economies of the Gulf states and for the nation."

 

CCA supports basing allocations on modern economic and demographic criteria that reflect current and future realities for these fisheries rather than outdated catch histories. Management schemes that give away public resources through measure such as sector separation and catch shares lock-in outdated allocations to individual businesses, making those resources subsequently unavailable to respond to economic and demographic changes.

 

"We urge NOAA Fisheries to use the considerable economic information it has in hand to increase opportunities for the entire recreational sector, comprised of hundreds of thousands of anglers," said Brewer. "Recreational angling is an economic engine that should be enhanced during these tough economic times that are impacting every sector of our society. These 19 studies indicate that a relatively simple allocation shift would immediately produce economic benefits to anglers and the businesses that depend on them."

 

CCA supplied the summary of economic data to Gulf Council members and NOAA staff in a letter to Council Chairman Robert Gill and urged the Council to act on the information to look objectively towards maximizing the benefits generated for the entire nation by these valuable marine resources.

 

 

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                   CONTACT: Ted Forsgren

March 5, 2012                                                                                 (407)702-3567

 

CCA FLORIDA CONFRONTS 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 to allow larger mesh sizes in nets so they can be used as gill nets. The netters are now going to local county commissions and asking them to approve resolutions to the FWC urging them to increase the allowable mesh size. The netting group is not telling the whole story.

     “CCA Florida has sent letters to the Governors Office and to all coastal County Commissioners providing information regarding the prohibition on the use of gill nets”, said Jeff Miller, CCA Florida Chairman of the Board. “We are concerned that Collier and other county commissions are not familiar with the history of FWC actions and the legal findings of fact in the previous lawsuits, so we have prepared a package of information on the past decisions that we have sent to the coastal County Commissions”.

     The measures being pushed by the netting group include a resolution which would allow net fishers to use a larger size mesh in their nets. However; all the current and best scientific information and testimony indicates that marine nets with mesh sizes exceeding two inches are gill nets. The critical factor in determining whether a net is a seine net or a gill net is mesh size. Modifying regulations to allow nets which exceed two inches stretched mesh would not be allowed by the net limitation amendment. Net studies, expert testimony and all court cases agree on that point.

     In November 1994 an overwhelming 72 percent of Floridas 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 16 years, there are still factions within the commercial industry who refuse to accept the legal reality that the constitutional prohibition on gill nets means no gill nets.

     The last time the netting group went to the FWC in 2008 their request to increase the mesh sizes was again rejected by the Commission. Here are two of the strong comments made by Commissioners at that meeting.

     “This is not a science question, the resource has rebounded. This constitutional amendment passed by a remarkable margin and our predecessors created a bright line definition, done objectively, and upheld in litigation,” said FWC Commissioner Ken Wright. “I am adamantly in favor of keeping the current two inch regulation. We are Trustees of a decision and bound to follow the will of the people”.

     “Going to a larger mesh size has the intent of creating a gill net. We cant point to a dog and call it a cat,” said FWC Commissioner Brian Yablonski. “We are bound by duty to the law and must respect the rule of law”.

     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 Florida Legislature, Florida Courts, and state agencies have upheld the clear intent of Florida voters.

     “CCA Florida will continue to be the outspoken advocate and protector of the Constitutional Amendment which prohibits the use of gill nets and other damaging nets” said CCA Florida Chairman Jeff Miller.

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For more information or to join CCA Florida, please visit CCA Floridas website at www.ccaflorida.org.

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