The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) is giving me a chance to offer a plan to limit by catch, help fishermen, and protect your freedom to access safe American seafood. I need your help to get the SAFMC to implement some or all of my plan. Please read this common sense approach to fishery management with an open heart and mind. If you agree with it, please contact the SAFMC and let them know you support the freefish7 plan. Kim Iverson is the public information officer for the SAFMC. She is a very nice lady. Please ask her to forward your comments to the voting members of the council. firstname.lastname@example.org
The by catch reduction and fishermen’s survival plan.
Thank you for the chance to present this plan. It is no secret that we do not see eye to eye on some issues. I do think we have a common goal of a healthy fishery that can be responsibly harvested. We should all be able to agree that it is not in the best interest of the fish or fishermen to have regulatory discards. I will offer ideas based on my experience as a fisherman to limit by catch, make efficient use of the resource, and promote our safety at sea. Please consider these suggestions with an open heart and mind.
The first thing that should be done is Trip Poundage Limits (TPLs) to manage the Annual Catch Limits (ACLs). The council has used TPLs and split seasons with some success. This plan incorporates some of those good ideas. It goes like this: every fish with an ACL should have the fishing year split into two six month seasons. The TPLs should be set high for the first 75% of the six month quota and adjusted to a level that would fill the quota without any long closures for the remaining 25%. This is an example for Vermilion Snapper that should replace the current derby fishery. Keep the six month seasons. Set the TPL at 1,500 pounds for the first 75% of the quota. Adjust the TPL for the remaining 25% to 300 pounds if there are several months left in that six month season. Set the TPL at 2,000 pounds if there is only one month left. Any poundage that is left should be carried over to the next six month season. Any poundage over the quota could be deducted from the next season. We can target Vermilion Snapper when the quota is high. We could target other species when the TPL is low. This would allow fishermen to keep the Vermilion Snapper by catch and give the consumer a dependable supply of them throughout the year. It would help fishermen make efficient use of the resource and earn enough money to survive the rebuilding process in a safer way. The council could also use TPLs instead of four month closures on Silver Snapper and shallow water grouper. Set the TPL at 100 pounds on both Silver Snapper and grouper. This would be low enough that fishermen would not make trips targeting them but would allow for by catch. This plan would give scientist a more accurate and dependable way to collect data. We should try our best to avoid wasting our resources.
Size limits sound good in theory but have unintended consequences. They force us to target the larger breeding stock of fish while discarding the small fish that can be replaced quickly. Many of those small fish die slowly from stress, infection, and decompression damage. The size limits should be abolished. The small fish should be counted against the ACLs instead of being wasted. We should have a goal of a zero by catch fishery and make efficient use of everything we catch. We need a law that would allow us to sell other by catch like sharks. We accidentally catch Black Tips, Sand Bar Sharks, Makos, and smooth dog sharks. These are all sharks that are good to eat and legal to sell in state waters. We should be allowed to sell 500 pounds of sharks per trip. We should not target sharks but we cannot avoid catching some of them. We can have a responsible harvest of almost any fish. It is a matter of realizing we cannot avoid catching some species and managing the fishery accordingly.
Artificial Reefs (ARs) could be the perfect union of aquaculture and commercially caught wild fish. We should try to enhance the fishery instead of restricting access to it. I believe we could greatly increase the total bio-mass the US South Atlantic could support with an aggressive AR program. I have heard some arguments against ARs and would welcome a debate on the issue. This should also be part of the marine spatial planning discussion. We need to look at the big picture and show other Nations by example how to manage their fisheries in a way that helps the fish, fishermen, economies, and the marine environment.
We have suffered severe financial hardships since the closures started last September. I propose that part of the NMFS budget be allocated to reducing the size of the snapper/grouper fishery through a voluntary buyout of inactive permits and elderly fishermen with illnesses that would like to retire. The market for our businesses has been destroyed by the economy and regulation. Those aging fishermen need a way out other than bankruptcy or death. I would also like to see the SAFMC, NMFS, and NOAA work with the Small Business Administration to help fishermen get low interest long term loans to consolidate our debt. This would take the pressure off of fishermen to risk life and limb to avoid bankruptcy. The buyout and debt consolidation loans would also take some of the pressure off of the fishery and allow stocks to rebuild faster.
Fishermen are not just numbers in management equations. We are real people with families that depend on our income and worry about our safety. We deserve to be treated like you and your loved ones would like to be treated if the roles were reversed. The solutions I presented are based on a love of the sea, decades of on the water experience, and the mandates in the MSA. It breaks my heart to be forced to discard GOD’s good creations to die slowly. I do not believe that any of you on this council really want to waste our resources. This is an unintended consequence that is obvious to those of us that discard by catch. TPLs should be addressed immediately to put an end to this waste of fish and income.
I know catch shares are a management measure that the SAFMC, NMFS, and NOAA are looking at and many environmental groups support. I would like to offer this compromise to everyone that wants catch shares. We agree to put TPLs in place to stabilize the fishery in the short term. We can then discuss and debate catch shares as well as buyouts, small business loans, and Artificial Reefs. We also need to look at getting rid of some old regulations like size limits that helped to create the problems. It looks like NOAA will have 54 million dollars in next year’s budget to set up catch share programs. I propose that some of that funding be allocated to paying fishermen to take the time necessary to be part of the process. Commercial fishermen have centuries of collective on the water experience to bring to the discussion. We love the sea and want to protect it.
Thank you for giving me the chance to present this plan. I welcome any questions and look forward to working together towards a healthy and sustainable fishery that can be responsibly harvested forever. We should try to manage the fishery in a way that rebuilds stocks while providing the public with a dependable supply of safe American seafood. We should also do what we can to help fishermen and their families survive the rebuilding process. We could achieve these goals if we work together using sound science, common sense, and follow the Golden Rule.
This is a simple way for you to support common sense, freedom, and your fellow Americans. I am trying to get 1,000 people to email a few words of support for this plan before I present it on Dec. 7th at the Hilton in New Bern. I would also like to have 1,000 people at that meeting. With that kind of support, we could have TPLs before the end of that week long meeting. Please contact me if you have any questions. email@example.com Please remember, this is not just our freedom to responsibly harvest this great Nation’s resources. It is your freedom to have a dependable supply of safe American seafood. Thank you for your support.
Please check out my new website at. www.freefish7.com