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Entries in Coastal Conservation Association (14)

Sunday
Jan192014

Feds Continue to Ignore Anglers, Push Ahead With 'Sector Separation'

 

Monday update: Comments link (below) might not work. Thanks to T.J. Stallings for alerting me to this. If that is the case, send your comments to gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org  Also tell your Representatives and Senators about this issue and why you oppose it. The Big-Government know-it-alls are trying their best to ignore us, and it's time to get their attention.


As part of its determined effort to manage every aspect of our lives, including fishing, this administration is pushing ahead with its scheme for “sector separation” in the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper fishery. This is a divide-and-conquer strategy, and it continues despite long and loud opposition from recreational anglers and their advocates.

By promising an allotment for charter captains, the feds intend to split recreational anglers, making them easier to subjugate for Catch Shares.

Under Catch Shares, the federal government turns over a public resource (fish) for private profit. It does so under the guise of better management of the resource, but its real intent is to reduce participation, thereby making federal control easier.

Mostly Catch Shares has been implemented on commercial fisheries. A company or a boat receives a specific “share” of the allotment for a season.

When the scheme is applied to mixed (commercial and recreational) or recreational fisheries, however, it treats sports anglers as a single entity and allots it a single share. Common sense will tell you that this cap will discourage both participation and growth in recreational fishing, which is worth far more economically than commercial fishing.

With “sector separation,” the feds hope that charter captains will forsake recreational fishing and support Catch Shares.

Even if you don't fish for saltwater species, this is something that you should be concerned about and speak up against. This is but one of several ways that this Big-Government administration intends to tell you where you can and cannot fish.

Here’s the latest on this from the Coastal Conservation Association:

The Council let it be known with its stealth release on the afternoon of Christmas Eve that this time, for sure, they really want to know how you feel about Amendment 40 – Sector Separation. And, at the same time, they announced that they don’t really care what you think about sector separation because they went ahead and launched the Headboat sector separation pilot program already. 

What’s the purpose of this public comment thing again? 

The only thing more disingenuous than the Christmas Eve News Dump is the charade of public comment in federal fisheries management on this issue. There is nothing in the glorious history of sector separation that indicates the general public matters in this arena. If it did, then these plans to give away fish to private businesses would have been dead and buried long ago.

Why should we care if yet another comment period is open on plans to divide up the recreational sector and give another small group of business-owners an insurmountable advantage over the general public in the red snapper fishery? The uncomfortable truth is that if we flooded the Council website with comments in opposition to this nine times in the past and washed our hands of it on the 10th time, that 10th time would forever be held up as evidence that this is what the public wants.

As sorry as this whole episode is, we can’t let that happen. 

We must fight this all the way to the end. You have done your part repeatedly and you’ve done it well. This is a battle in which we are struggling not because we are wrong or apathetic, but because the system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to.

We are up against a system that does not understand recreational angling and often acts like it doesn’t want to. You need look no further than the fairly insulting decision to release an announcement of the most controversial federal fisheries amendment in recent history on Christmas Eve. 

This comment period is a chance to OPPOSE SECTOR SEPARATION ONE MORE TIME, and we should take it. But more significantly, it is an opportunity to send the message that millions of recreational anglers cannot be oh-so-casually dismissed. We deserve far better treatment than this.

The comment period on Amendment 40 – Sector Separation is open until Jan. 23. Click HERE to submit comments electronically or submit written comments to: Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

The next meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will take place February 3-6, at the Westin Galleria Hotel, 5060 W. Alabama Street in Houston, Texas.

Also, read what the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have to say about this scheme to privatize and limit participation for public fisheries.

 

Friday
Nov152013

Texas A&M to Build Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation

Texas sea trout, caught and released while fishing out of Redfish Lodge. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Texas A&M will build a Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) at its Harte Research Institute (HRI) in Corpus Christi.

 “The Island University is excited to have the first center of its kind in the nation dedicated to advancing sportfish management, science, and conservation,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, president and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “The new Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation will position the University as a national and international leader in addressing issues related to sportfish.”

Recreational saltwater fishing in Texas generates more than $981 million dollars in retail sales each year with more than 750,000 saltwater anglers supporting an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion dollars.

“We will contribute the expertise and the leadership needed to help ensure that the state’s multi-billion dollar recreational fisheries continue to thrive for future generations,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, executive director of the HRI. “The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation will provide a robust base of scientific knowledge to assure that the best decisions are made in managing fisheries and marine environments.”

Dr. Greg Stunz, director of the CSSC and Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health at the HRI, added that both inshore and offshore, many challenges confront maintaining healthy sportfish populations. These threats include a changing environment that is seeing diminished freshwater inflows to estuaries; habitat loss due to coastal development; and increasing pressure from commercial fisheries.

“The Center will address the most critical issues and problems affecting sport fisheries today,” said Stunz. “Our team is ready to take on the challenges facing the recreational fishing industry along the Texas coast and the Gulf of Mexico.”

In November 2012, the Coastal Conservation Association-Texas (CCA-Texas) pledged $500,000 to support the CSSC.  CCA Texas is a leader in restoring the fisheries for spotted sea trout and red drum, advocating for freshwater inflows to Texas estuaries, habitat restoration, and education.

 CSSC will provide hands-on research opportunities for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi graduate and undergraduate students. It also will be a hub for marine research for the Texas A&M University System and scientists interested in marine fisheries investigations.  

Friday
Nov082013

Battle Not Over to Protect Florida Fisheries from Gill Nets

From Jacksonville.com: The gill nets are catching more than mullet. A canal mugflat exposed at low tide on Tuesday shows entangled redfish, a prized gamefish. Gill nets were banned in 1995, but a judge decided to stop enforcing the rule. Photo provided by Marc Hardesty

The 20th anniversary of a constitutional amendment that saved Florida’s inshore fish and ecosystems will be celebrated in 2014. It banned the use of gill nets, which were wiping out mullet, an important forage species, while obliterating snook, redfish, and other game fish as bycatch.

But encouraged by a high price for mullet roe in foreign markets, commercial fishermen continue to try to overturn the ban. And their latest effort succeeded temporarily, as a Leon County judge agreed with their arguments.

Fortunately, a higher court allowed the ban to stay in place as this latest challenge works its way through the state’s judicial system.

“Great news for now,” said Brian Gorski, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Florida. “It’s still long from over.”

Meanwhile, Jim Donofrio of the Recreational Fishing Alliance said that anglers are ready to fight for the amendment that was approved of by 72 percent of Florida voters.

"Talk about awakening a sleeping giant. This judge's ruling completely contradicts the will of the people. It violates the constitutionality of the 1994 vote and threatens to undo 20 years of successful conservation practice in her state," he said.

"It also is pitting the commercial fishermen of Florida against every single member of the recreational fishing community, and I doubt that's a war they were hoping for.

"All the recreational fishing organizations and conservation groups are on the same page on this one.”

As this latest challenge plays out, Rodney Smith, a Florida guide and founder of Anglers for Conservation, shared his thoughts with Activist Angler regarding the fight to save Florida’s inshore fisheries:

“It is easy to understand the great concern and frustration Florida anglers and conservationists experience whenever this amendment is challenge or disobeyed.

“For far too many years, folks who commercially fishing our state's waters used monofilament gill nets to capture their catch. This type of fishing gear is known for its immense and non-discriminative bycatch. There are few fish-catching devices more destructive to our environment than monofilament gills nets.

“These death traps are not only fish killers, but they trap and kill marine birds, reptiles, mammals and a countless number of other critters that are discarded as bycatch. This one of the many reasons Florida's voters passed the net ban amendment.

“This isn't the first attempt to sabotage Florida's constitutional net ban amendment. Every couple of years we see these types of shenanigans. They usually come from an underling court in rural west Florida or the Panhandle.Each time the amendment has stood strong in higher courts.

“Looking back to years running up to the 1994 election, the year the amendment was approved, I remember the milestones we reached along the way to make this amendment possible. It took us a couple of years to rally the support we needed to raise money, recruit and mobilize volunteers at voting precincts, and collect over 200,000 signatures during the 1992 elections to place the amendment on the ballot.

“Looking back, the majority of us involved had a sense of urgency and a feeling that nothing could stand in the way of getting this amendment passed.

“Ours was a fevered passion for success, and it was a five-year process. During the campaign my clients and I had an attempt on our lives by a commercial netter who loosened all the lug nuts on my wheels. There were also the late night threatening, drunken phone calls that we received. (They worried my wife, Karen.) And I had a face-to-face death threat at a Marine Fisheries Commission meeting in Cocoa Beach. It was an exciting time!

“Yes, 2014 will be the 20th anniversary of Florida's constitutional net ban amendment passing, and we should all be talking about it.”

Wednesday
Nov062013

Nets Once Again Threaten Florida's Fisheries

Good news: The net ban is being enforced, at least for now. Learn more here.


By the mid 1980s, gill netting had nearly destroyed Florida’s inshore fisheries. Mullet and other forage species had been obliterated, with game fish also decimated. In addition, the predator fish that weren't netted were starving to death, as were fish-eating birds.

A ban on inshore netting brought back the bait, the birds, and the game fish. Today, Florida’s inshore fisheries are bountiful and, via sport fishing, provide a rich economic engine for the state’s coastal communities.

But now all of that is threatened, and your help is needed to save Florida’s inshore fisheries from once again being devastated by netting.

A judge in Leon County has ordered the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to stop enforcing the 18-year-old ban.

Go here to sign a petition to restore the ban and here to support the Coastal Conservation Assocation in its opposition to the ruling.

Florida Today says this:

In November 1994, 72 percent of the voters said “yes” to the gill net ban, which also limits nets to a maximum size of 500 square feet.

But after years of legal wrangling, Fulford ordered FWC to stop enforcing the ban. The same day, the Attorney General’s office filed a notice of appeal of (Judge Jackie) Fulford’s decision to the Florida First District Court of Appeal. That would automatically reinstate the ban until the matter could be resolved in court. But last week, Fulford granted a request by the plaintiffs’ attorneys that she lift the automatic stay of her order.

The plaintiffs are Wakulla Commercial Fisherman’s Association, Inc., and three individuals from the Panacea area, a longtime commercial fishing town south of Tallahassee.

Fulford said she thought it unlikely that stopping enforcement while legal action continues would cause “irreparable harm,” according to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat, or that FWC would prevail on appeal.

Sport fishermen who fought for the ban disagree.

“She’s created an absolute nightmare for the resource and a gold mine for the gill netters,” said Ted Forsgren, a spokesman for the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, a group of 9,000 recreational anglers.

“What she has in fact done is open up gill nets in all state waters at the worst possible time,” Forsgren added. “Every day that goes by commercial fisherman are stocking up on spawning mullet.”

Tuesday
Apr022013

Activist Anglers Needed to Help Combat 'Sinking Your Empties'

Photos of Clackamas cleanup by Dave Eng.

As you fish our rivers, lakes and coastal waters, this season, please also help care for them. And I’m not talking about just properly disposing of your own trash; I’m talking about helping counter a nationwide epidemic of shameful behavior.

As the photo above reveals, our fisheries are being buried in empty cans and bottles by slob recreationists. When they take to the water, their main concerns are drinking to excess and then discarding the evidence so that they won’t be ticketed and/or arrested for driving a boat while under the influence or some other charge related to possession of alcohol.

Rudy Socha at Wounded Nature --- Working Veterans recently alerted me to this problem. On many waters, he says, the perpetrators even have a term for this strategy: “Sinking your empties.”

He also told me, “It seems to be the skeleton in the closet that everyone knows is there and yet no one has wanted to discuss it.”

It’s going to be discussed at Activist Angler. And one of the first things I want to emphasize is that I do not believe that fishermen are a major contributor to this problem, especially those who belong to such conservation organizations as B.A.S.S., Trout Unlimited, Recycled Fish, Coastal Conservation Association, and National Wildlife Federation.

I won’t point fingers at those whom I suspect. I’ll leave that to anglers and their specific waters. They know them better than I.

Dave Eng knows the Clackamas River in Oregon, and here is what he says:

“The Clackamas is widely used in summer, as it is near Portland and allows people to float on anything from tubes to pool toys. We will have several thousand users on a hot day.”

They leave behind their cans and bottles, he adds, “as it is against the law to have alcohol in the county parks and a large bunch of users are under-age as well.”

 And the second thing that I want to emphasize is that we, as anglers, are stewards for these waters. We were the first conservationists and we remain the most important.

What can you do about this problem? Well, plenty of anglers, through various clubs and chapters, already are picking up trash along shorelines and around launch ramps. Extend that cleanup into the water, as Eng and his friend Joe do on the Clackamas. Depending on the water, you might want to coordinate the effort with your state wildlife agency or local government.

Also, if you see people trashing our fisheries with cans and bottles, report them. Thanks to cell phones, you can immediately contact authorities.

Finally, talk about the problem. Shameful behavior can be difficult to continue when exposed to public scrutiny and criticism.

Let’s not keep this skeleton in the closer any longer.