Posts Tagged ‘South Atlantic red snapper’
Pew misinformation campaign reaches new low
by Jeff Angers
Center for Coastal Conservation
In what has become a veritable campaign of misinformation, Pew Environment Group issued yet another statement in support of setting annual catch limits on marine fisheries species without the benefit of science-based assessments. Taking the campaign to a new level, Pew is now revising history to make its points:
“Holly Binns, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Southeast Fish Conservation Campaign, issued the following statement [Aug. 8] in response to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s 8 to 5 vote to approve plans to prevent overfishing that protect dozens of species by setting science-based catch limits.
“‘The council has taken a forward-looking approach that allows managers to set scientifically sound fishing limits now before species suffer population declines. This proactive strategy is necessary to avoid what happened with South Atlantic red snapper, which is in such severe trouble that a fishing moratorium was needed in 2010 to save the species.’
“‘This plan will help avert steeper restrictions in the future, setting a course towards restoring a healthy, balanced ocean ecosystem. It is like visiting the doctor for preventive care, rather than waiting until you end up in the emergency room.’”
There are so many misstatements of fact in that statement, it is hard to know where to begin. For starters, there is nothing “scientifically sound” about setting catch limits without the benefit of a stock assessment. Those catch limits are going to be set by SWAG — scientific wild-ass guess – which doesn’t necessarily bother an environmentalist but does strike a nerve with anglers and others who actually use America’s public resources.
Second, the South Atlantic red snapper crisis came about precisely because NOAA Fisheries neglected to do a stock assessment for decades — the exact course of action Pew is advocating now for all marine fisheries. In a sense, the Council managed that fishery by SWAG and got it horribly wrong, so wrong that when they finally did do an assessment, they almost had to close the bottom of the entire South Atlantic to fix it. And ironically, if I recall correctly, Pew was very much in favor of that closure.
Third, as exemplified by South Atlantic red snapper, nothing about setting limits based on SWAGs is going to prevent managers from having to enact steeper restrictions in the future when and if an assessment finally shows them how radically wrong those limits are. And, in the most gaping fault with Pew’s logic, once the catch limits are set without an assessment, there is no motivation for managers to spend the money and resources to actually examine the state of the stock with an assessment. Red snapper became a crisis after the stock assessment. If they had never done an assessment — and NOAA Fisheries has shown a systemic reluctance to expend resources on assessments in recreational fisheries — red snapper would still be heading merrily down the drain, and no one would be the wiser.
Pew likes to say that managing this way is “preventative” medicine, and it’s better than ending up in the emergency room. In reality, they are advocating exactly the opposite. They are advocating that you never visit the doctor, never run any tests, never draw blood or have an x-ray. And by time you realize there is a problem, you go straight to the morgue.
That is no way to manage a fishery.
There are rational ways to manage wildlife resources that are employed all over this country. Anglers are seeking the same for marine species, no more, no less. But we are not going to get there by revising history and distorting reality.
Tags: Annual catch limits, Magnuson-Stevens Act, South Atlantic red snapper
Posted in CCA Blogs, Magnuson-Stevens Act | 2 Comments »
Reallocation glaringly absent from documents on managing fisheries
As part of its ongoing effort to encourage the federal fisheries management system to overhaul the way it views the nation’s marine resources, Coastal Conservation Association is urging the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to break with the failed policies of the past and chart new management plans for a series of important recreational fisheries.
In recent months, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have all opted to explore reallocation of fisheries using forward-looking criteria rather than outdated catch histories. The South Atlantic Council is noticeably absent from that list.
South Atlantic Council staff recently concluded a series of public hearings and scoping meetings on a wide variety of marine resource issues. Nowhere in the hundreds of pages of documents that accompanied dozens of controversial management measures was there any reference to reallocating the nation’s fisheries to better reflect modern shifts in demographics, economics and conservation ethics. Federal fisheries have historically been allocated using backward-looking catch histories, many of them locked into time frames that were selected to favor high commercial allocations.
“We understand that we are dealing with an agency that has not been sympathetic to recreational interests. However, evidence is mounting that not only are recreational anglers usually the best stewards of the resource, we are the best economic engine in many of these fisheries, too,” said Bill Bird, CCA National Board member from Florida. “In many cases, it is not even a close call. Instead of finding new and sometimes baffling ways to preserve an outdated commercial fishery, we believe managers have an obligation to begin managing these fisheries for the future, instead of simply repeating the past.”
Economist Brad Gentner recently analyzed the South Atlantic red snapper fishery and found recreational fishing generates significantly greater economic impact than the commercial sector.
“We’re not saying every fishery has to be 100 percent recreational, but many of the current allocations border on the absurd when you look objectively at the economics,” said Chester Brewer, CCA National Government Relations Committee chairman. “We recognize that economics should be just one of the guiding principles to manage these fisheries, but even a cursory glance at terrestrial wildlife management shows what can be done with a forward-leaning approach. There is no reason marine resource management should remain stuck in a bygone era.”
In testifying on Snapper Grouper Amendment 24 during the recent public hearings, CCA asked the Council to examine the red snapper allocation based on social, economic and conservation factors.
“We believe that the greatest economic benefits to the country can be achieved by having the South Atlantic red snapper fishery reopen as a recreational-only fishery,” said Bird. “The snapshot report by Gentner indicates that the South Atlantic Council should follow the lead of other councils and take this opportunity to order a complete economic analysis as part of an overall effort to chart a new path for this fishery.”
Click HERE for the economic snapshot of South Atlantic red snapper.
Tags: reallocation, South Atlantic red snapper
Posted in CCA South Atlantic | No Comments »
New science removes threat of massive bottom closures
in response to red snapper mess…for now
The rollercoaster of red snapper management in the South Atlantic took yet another turn this week when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a six-month delay in implementing large-scale closures to all bottom fishing as a management measure to recover red snapper stocks. Expectations are that NOAA will use the extra time to fully process a new stock assessment showing red snapper stocks are in better shape than previously thought and hopefully reduce or even eliminate the total bottom closure as a result.
“We are relieved that NOAA heeded our call to review the science before implementing such a devastating management measure on the South Atlantic,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “This is another example of how important it is for groups like CCA to be engaged in the management process, especially when things aren’t going well. However, the root of this problem still exists in federal fisheries law, and we will very likely find ourselves in this kind of predicament again in the near future without a legislative fix to prevent it.”
The delayed closure was the result of Amendment 17A to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery, and was based on a 2008 stock assessment. That assessment indicated that snapper stocks were so overfished that in order to end overfishing of the stock, managers had to prohibit all bottom fishing in a massive area to avoid red snapper mortality even as bycatch. The fishery became the center of a firestorm of discontent over federal fisheries management as it became apparent that not only had a profound lack of science on red snapper allowed the fishery to reach a crisis point but that NOAA was grossly unprepared to implement tough new federal conservation laws by any tool other than the most draconian management measures available, such as total fishing closures.
In response to the crisis, the Fishery Conservation Transition Act (FCTA) was introduced earlier this year to give federal marine fisheries managers the time, resources and more specific direction necessary to address the chronic deficiencies in data collection and science that have plagued federal fisheries like red snapper.
FCTA was introduced by bi-partisan Members of the U.S. Senate and House. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and David Vitter (R-La.) are co-sponsoring the Senate bill (S.3594). The House bill (H.R.6316) is co-authored by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus co-chairmen Reps. Dan Boren (D-Okla.); Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.); Mike Ross (D-Ark.), and Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). Other co-sponsors of the House measure include Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.); Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam); Henry Brown (R-S.C.); Rob Wittman (R-Va.), and Don Young (R-Alaska). FCTA is supported by CCA, American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Center for Coastal Conservation, Congressional Sportsman Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association and others.
“This entire episode has been traumatic for anglers and the businesses that depend on them all along the South Atlantic coast. The supposed best science that we had two years ago nearly shut down the entire South Atlantic to bottom fishing, and today it appears we don’t need that. Yet we still have a closed red snapper fishery and a great deal of confusion and mistrust in the recreational angling community,” said Brewer. “No other wildlife resources are managed in such a haphazard manner. We need FCTA to maintain our conservation principles while addressing the chronic lack of basic information in marine fisheries management. We don’t need another train wreck like this one.”
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. For more information visit the CCA Newsroom at www.JoinCCA.org.
Tags: Amendment 17A, South Atlantic closure, South Atlantic red snapper
Posted in CCA Atlantic States, Magnuson-Stevens Act | No Comments »
CCA seeks guidelines for opening areas, disaster relief for impacted businesses
CCA is calling for a number of measures to reduce the impact of management action to address a disastrous red snapper situation in the South Atlantic.
“If the federal government is going to impose significant closures that will negatively impact recreational anglers and related businesses in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, then it is vital for the government to develop a real exit strategy from this terrible situation,” said Richen Brame, CCA South Atlantic fisheries director. “CCA is calling for specific, measurable criteria to determine when the objective of this plan will be met and recreational fishermen will be allowed to resume catching bottom fish.”
CCA has also requested that the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council conduct further review of the existing science to confirm the status of red snapper.
“All the extensive remedies being discussed are the result of a single stock assessment, the first full assessment ever conducted on South Atlantic red snapper. The federal government is asking anglers to swallow a very bitter pill with these unprecedented management proposals to close such a huge area to bottom fishing,” said Russell Kent, CCA National vice president. “With the Freedom to Fish language that CCA developed in the Magnuson Stevens Act, the federal government should at least develop guidelines to monitor and reopen those areas as soon as possible.”
Among the Freedom to Fish requirements are specific, measurable criteria to determine the conservation benefits of the closed area on the affected stocks of fish, a timetable for periodic review of the continued need for the closed area at least once every three years, and provisions for reopening the closed area to recreational fishing whenever the targeted conservation problem no longer exists.
In addition to requesting firm guidelines for terminating the closures, CCA will explore the feasibility of seeking a federal declaration of “resource disaster” to allow businesses impacted by the closures, such as charter boats and tackle shops, to receive financial relief.
“The inescapable fact is that the federal government has done a terrible job of managing this fishery and there is no silver bullet at this point to fix decades of neglect,” said Kent. “But the government should take responsibility for fixing what they can now, and helping the people who are bearing the greatest financial burden as a result of the closure is a good first step.”
Tags: disaster relief, South Atlantic red snapper
Posted in CCA South Atlantic | No Comments »
Unprecedented fisheries disaster in South Atlantic needs calculated response
In late 2006, Congress passed a significantly strengthened Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act, the overriding piece of legislation that guides federal fisheries management. Among other progressive provisions, the new law required managers to end overfishing by 2010. Only a year later, a stock assessment for South Atlantic red snapper, the first modern stock assessment ever done on the species, was released and proclaimed red snapper undergoing severe overfishing and so grossly overfished that it was instantly a full-blown crisis discovered right under managers’ noses.
Now those two events are colliding and recreational anglers from North Carolina to Florida are caught squarely in the middle.
“This is a perfect storm for fisheries management, and the system is clearly not designed to handle this type of unforeseen and unforeseeable situation,” said Richen Brame, Atlantic States Fisheries Director for Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). “If the science on red snapper is correct, then managers need to act. However, we believe that the measures that would be implemented for a stock that had been willfully mismanaged for 40 years should not be the same as those implemented for a stock such as this that has been ignored for 40 years and suddenly appears on the radar in a critically depressed condition.”
As a result, CCA is calling on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to take a calculated approach to red snapper to mitigate the impact on recreational angling to the greatest extent possible, including:
· Further review of the existing science on red snapper to confirm the status of the stock;
· Additional research to fill critical gaps in researchers’ knowledge of the species for management;
· While complete closure of any fishery should be the means of a last resort for any species, if upon further review and research it appears necessary for red snapper, then the fisheries for all other bottom species should remain open;
· Additional federal funding for the development of better release practices to reduce red snapper release mortality;
· When the stock is recovered, it should be managed as a purely recreational fishery;
· Any proposal to close all bottom fishing will be opposed by CCA unless all other options have been thoroughly exhausted and such closures comply with specific criteria outlined in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including timelines for reopening, periodic research and assessment requirements, and minimum size designations that are no larger than that needed to achieve the rebuilding objectives for red snapper.
“We need a scalpel, not a sledge hammer to manage this species. Massive bottom closures just do not fit the unique circumstances of this extraordinary case,” said Brame. “Anglers are willing to do their part and accept extensive regulations to keep marine resources healthy whenever necessary, but any proposals to close all bottom fishing should be the management tool of absolute last resort.”
Tags: Magnuson-Stevens Act, South Atlantic red snapper
Posted in CCA South Atlantic | No Comments »