Coastal Conservation Association
Comments to NOAA Fisheries Service Opposing
Haugen Exempted Fishing Permit
The Coastal Conservation Association, representing more than 80,000 members in state chapters along the Gulf Coast, has major concerns about several aspects of the one-year exempted fishing permit sought by commercial reef fish fishermen Thomas Haugen that would authorize the applicant to use unauthorized experimental fish traps in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Fish traps were removed from the Gulf of Mexico in 2007 after years of controversy over their destructiveness and have also been outlawed in the Atlantic and state waters. This gear is “invisible” once deployed and ample evidence has been supplied by state and federal law enforcement agents to conclude that it is nearly impossible to observe the gear and enforce any escape gap or panel regulations. Enforcement officers testified before the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in February 2010 on the extreme difficulty of enforcing any regulations on fish traps. NOAA Regional Administrator Dr. Roy Crabtree stated that the enforcement concerns were very legitimate factors in the Gulf Council’s unanimous vote to remove fish traps from consideration in Amendment 32 to the gag/red grouper management plan. Coastal Conservation Association believes the enforcement issue alone should be a permanent deterrent to the reintroduction of any fish trap gear in the Gulf of Mexico.
Additionally, the permit applicant does not, and in all likelihood cannot, address issues of experimental design or statistical analysis of the proposed “experimental” use of this type of fish trap. CCA does not believe that the applicant, who has publicly stated that he desires to develop an allowance to use his traps which are currently prohibited, can lend an objective eye or voice to develop useful information on the trap and how it functions. For any experimental study of the operational impacts of new gear only objective scientists from state, federal or academic entities operating with clearly defined, randomized experimental constructs can provide the careful scrutiny and analyses that would lead to credible information useful to fisheries managers.
CCA urges NOAA Fisheries Service to reject this application for an exempted fishing permit.
Tags: exempted fishing permit, fish trap, Haugen
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Like a bad penny, a proposal to re-introduce fish traps as an alternative to longline gear in the Gulf grouper fishery turned up before the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in December, outraging conservationists and fisheries management veterans who had fought to banish the destructive gear from the Gulf back in the 1990s. Fortunately for the fish and the anglers who care about them, the proposal died a quick death this week when the Council voted unanimously to remove the proposal from Amendment 32 to the gag/red grouper management plan that is going forward this year.
“This was truly an alarming detour into the scrap heap of failed fishery management schemes, but thankfully there are enough people who remember how much time, effort and money it took to finally get fish traps out of the Gulf to make sure they are never used again,” said Jeff Allen, chairman of CCA Florida. “However, if the environmental community is working with longliners to propose fish traps, we all need to remain vigilant because there is no telling what might come next.”
An unusual alliance of environmental groups and commercial longliners had originally explored the use of fish traps as a trade-off for the removal of equally destructive longline gear which is killing excessive numbers of threatened loggerhead sea turtles. One by one, other environmental groups in the effort came to oppose the use of the traps as more information on their destructiveness came to light. However, Environmental Defense Fund and several commercial fishing organizations such as the Southern Offshore Fishing Association, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance and the Gulf Fishermen’s Association continued to press for the use of fish traps in return for reducing the longline fishing effort.
“Substituting one harmful gear for another harmful gear that has already been banned in U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic is completely unacceptable,” said Russell Nelson, CCA’s Gulf Fisheries consultant. “Dr. Roy Crabtree, NOAA regional administrator, noted enforcement officers’ testimony on the extreme difficulty of enforcing any regulations on fish traps and stated that those concerns were very legitimate factors in the Council’s decision.”
An army of CCA members and other concerned conservationists turned out at public hearings across the Gulf Coast in January to testify against the proposal and left no doubt that recreational anglers are committed to preventing the gear from ever being reintroduced back into the Gulf.
“The Council should be commended for slamming the door on this ill-conceived effort,” said Allen. “We hope this signals that future discussions will focus on finding ways to reduce destructive commercial fishing effort to the greatest extent possible.”
CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the nation. With almost 100,000 members in 17 state chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. Visit www.JoinCCA.org for more information.
Tags: fish trap, gulf council
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