SAFMC Meeting Update

Last week’s South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting showed the council is listening to our comments as well as the comments of those who want to advance other agendas. Catch shares were mentioned a couple of times during the Visioning Project workshop. It is extremely important for us to offer alternative solutions to solve the regulatory discard problem that is wasting over a million pounds of our quotas every year. VMS was brought up again during the workshop. This time the for-hire fleet seemed to be their target. The council also decided to put off the MPA scoping meetings until August due in large part to high levels of anticipated opposition based on the comments they have already received. NOAA is accepting comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Study for RA17. You can learn more and comment at this link.

We need to point out that there is no proof existing MPAs have had any positive impact. The Scientific and Statistical Committee has said existing regulations have likely ended overfishing of Warsaw Grouper and Speckled Hind and there is no evidence new MPAs would help these stocks. I will post my comment on here as soon as I submit it.

Lunch with John Carmichael and Chairman Hartig resulted in some good and bad news. The good news is that we could see a reduction in the current 40% Gag Grouper discard mortality rate based on the circle hook mandate in the current stock assessment if enough fishermen ask the council to do this. John also said a further reduction could come from a requirement to use decent assist devices on gags suffering from barotrauma. The bad news is that video proof of fishermen using decent assist devices would not allow for a reduction in mortality rates without a requirement for fishermen to use them. My thought on

December 2013 SAFMC Meeting Public Comment

I am Chris McCaffity, a commercial fisherman and advocate for the responsible harvest of healthy fisheries. These are my public comments regarding the Visioning Project, Regulatory Amendment 17, and Amendments 22, 29, and 31. I would like to start with a Japanese proverb. “Vision without action is a dream and action without vision is a nightmare.” The laws that were rushed to meet Congressional hard deadlines without a clear vision using “fatally flawed data” have resulted in a nightmare of wasted seafood, financial devastation, and even death. The Visioning Project provides a wonderful opportunity to rebuild confidence in the council process.

Managing a multi-species fisheries boils down to figuring out how much of each species can be harvested without overfishing, splitting each fish?s Acceptable Biological Catch between sectors, and then managing individual quotas with appropriate possession limits so they are filled but not exceeded while avoiding total closures. Some seafood should have higher possession limits than others based on the amount of quota available. Fishermen could target fish with higher limits while still keeping most of what we catch with lower limits. Quotas should be managed to make discards rare while encouraging fishermen to release illegal seafood so it has the best chance of survival. We should also try to use every part of every kind of seafood we harvest and create markets for underutilized species. Once quotas are established and properly managed, we should look at ways to enhance habitat so it produces more seafood and recreational opportunities while protecting our renewable resources for future generations.

It is extremely sad how bad our commercial quotas are being mismanaged. Why is the council planning ahead to waste hundreds of tons of seafood every year rather than managing quotas with appropriate possession limits to avoid multiple extended closures and excessive discards? Stakeholders should be able to decide how we wan