1. Align opening dates for co-occurring species to reduce Regulatory Discards.
2. Properly manage quotas with appropriate possession limits to avoid extended closures.
3. Establish By-catch Allowances for undersized fish and after primary quotas are filled.
4. Mark Marine Protected Areas with data buoys or platforms equipped with video cameras.
5. Enhance existing MPAs with artificial reef habitat rather than closing more areas.
6. Create a recreational offshore fishing permit with electronic reporting to collect accurate data.
7. Educate fishermen about the benefits of using decent assist devices when releasing illegal bottomfish suffering from barotrauma.
8. Allow commercial permit and recreational license holders to have final approval of any new council appointments and regulations impacting their fishery with a 2/3 majority vote.
Here is a link to the SAFMC Visioning Project webpage.
Here are summaries for each of the SAFMC Visioning Project port meetings I attended in NC.
SAFMC Southport Visioning Project Port Meeting Summary
Everyone wanted a year round fishery without the multiple extended closures we currently experience. Here are some of the possible solutions that were offered.
1. Give NC a percentage of each Total Allowable Catch (TAC) to manage.
2. Give fishermen a catch share of some TACs.
3. Take away latent permits.
4. Offer a voluntary buyout.
5. Manage individual quotas with split seasons, appropriate possession limits, and By-catch Allowances to avoid total closures.
6. Give back some of the MILLION plus pounds of our TACs that are currently being allocated to Post Closure Discard Mortality once quotas are properly managed to avoid closures.
7. Encourage fishermen to use Descending Devices on illegal fish with barotrauma and reduce the mortality rate dedicated to each species in stock assessments.
8. Consider other options for collecting better data in a timely manner for more accurate stock assessments.
Jerry Schill explained how a Joint Law Enforcement Agreement with the federal government would obligate NC to obey NMFS without any ability to object or sue.
Most fishermen supported the idea of allowing fishermen to decide how our TACs for each species will be managed with a 2/3 majority vote of participating permit/license holders.
There was support for a recreational reef fish permit or place on state fishing licenses to declare that an angler intends to fish for snapper/grouper species. This would define the universe of anglers while providing contact information. An electronic reporting system could also be established.
Sneads Ferry SAFMC Visioning Project Port Meeting Summary
Most of the fishermen at this meeting wanted to see longer seasons and offered many of the same solutions as those in Southport. Here are some of their ideas.
1. Align opening dates for co-occurring species.
2. Use appropriate possession limits to avoid extended closures.
3. Use By-catch Allowances to avoid total closures and regulatory discards.
4. Allow NC to control our share of each TAC.
5. Allow fishermen to have more of a say about how our TACs are managed.
It was suggested that all grouper should have a 24” size limit.
Several fishermen and dealers stated that they wanted to see a 10% overage allowance on Trip Limits.
There was support for a two month spawning season closure for shallow-water grouper that shifted with latitude.
Everyone seemed to be totally opposed to Catch Shares.
Council staff said Lionfish are not a managed species and nothing is stopping fishermen from using traps to target them.
One enforcement idea that seemed popular if NC controlled our own TACs or spawning closures shifted was to require vessels to comply with their home port’s regulations and have any landings counted against that state’s TAC.
Morehead City SAFMC Visioning Project Port Meeting Summary
Avoiding closures and discards was once again the primary concern. Many of the same solutions as were mentioned at previous meetings were brought up again. Aligning opening dates for co-occurring species, appropriate possession limits, and by-catch allowances were some possible solutions. Catch shares was also an option a couple of people supported. Nobody seemed happy with how our fisheries are currently managed as a MILLION+ pounds of our TACs are allocated to projected dead regulatory discards due in large part to the multiple extended closures caused by dangerous derby fisheries. It appears most fishermen would like the Visioning Project’s primary goal to be properly managing each sector’s share of our TACs to avoid total closures and dead discards.
Some people mentioned that our fisheries should be managed so they’re more profitable.
There was support for the ideas of labeling seafood as sustainably harvested and that consumers should have access to a dependable supply of local seafood.
A recreational fishing guide mentioned how his customers needed more access to snapper/grouper species that are showing up in numbers close to shore like he has never seen. When asked if he thought the bag limits should be raised for recreational quotas that are not being filled so his customers could keep more fish, he said no and that most of his customers
didn’t care about keeping any fish. He said the leftover quota should be allocated to what council staff labeled as a conservation quota.
Wanchese SAFMC Visioning Project Port Meeting Summary
Pretty weather prevented most of the local fishermen from attending this meeting. A few fishermen and the wife of another talked about the need for a targeted Blueline Tilefish fishery north of Cape Hatters. They asked for a By-catch Allowance after most of the quota is landed
to continue supplying local markets. This area is influenced by the Labrador Current and has a local tilefish population unlike anywhere else in the southeast. There aren’t many co-occurring species to make dead discards an issue.
It was mentioned how overlapping jurisdiction of the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic councils has hurt fishermen as they lost their ability to use some incidental take permits or target tilefish and bass on the same trip. This costs them money and creates regulatory discards.
The need for better recreational landings data was discussed.
A retired fisherman said it is the wrong approach to only target larger mostly female breeders and discard countless smaller fish regardless of mortality rates. He also talked about the need to
enhance our fisheries through stocking programs and added that turtles could be raised to offset any fatal interactions.
My comment for this meeting was that NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) allows affected stakeholders to offer alternatives that would mitigate negative impacts of proposed or existing
regulations. The solution I suggested is for stakeholders to set up a secure website we can log into with our permit/license number and a password to discuss options and hold votes on alternatives options that use the same data as SAFMC staff and follows all MSA mandates. Alternative NEPA solutions would need to be approved with a 2/3 majority vote of participating permit/license holders. We would then need to get everyone we can to submit public comments supporting our solution.