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My Comments Yesterday in Key Largo to SAFMC

Got TA GoGot TA Go Posts: 2,608 Captain
There's lots of items that are in their infancy on the Agenda. Here's a few I commented on:

My name is Rob Harris and I live and fish in the Florida Keys. I serve as a member of the SAFMC Snapper Grouper AP representative as Florida’s Recreational Fishing Representative.

I also am the Director of the Key West Fishing Tournament which averages over 1,000 recreational anglers each year.

I also have a large population of Commercial Fishermen living in and around my area.

Action 2. Prohibit powerheads in the EEZ off NC and throughout the South

I know that this item has been brought forth through a request from the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission and was discussed at length at our last AP meeting.

As I recall the discussions of this issue, there wasn’t great support from the AP for a complete ban of the gear from any of the represented sectors.

We discussed the typically selective nature of the gear, the fact that the commercial seafood buyers had a preference for fish taken using the gear and the potential for exploitation of only the largest of a species being targeted.

It was also mentioned that the hook-and-line fishermen were noting a lack of the larger specimens in the target species being taken by hook-and-line. This point was made by the difference in the sizes of the fish being landed at the docks and was noted by some of the AP members as they had seen the catches or the pictures of the catches.

I also recall discussion of the difficulty of landing these larger fish on hook-and-line throughout the SAFMC region, regardless of the presence of spear fishermen. It only makes sense that these fish would be more difficult to land with rod/reel.

It also makes sense that the larger specimens being targeted by spear/powerhead also make for the best brood stock that would undoubtedly have an impact on the overall stocks.

Having said that, given the amount of information that we’ve been presented with (or lack thereof), I would find it difficult to support a complete closure.

I would be more inclined to follow the line used by the divers about the “selective nature” within their fishing style:

- Establish a Maximum Size Limit for both Commercial and Recreational Sector
- For the Commercial Sector, establish an Endorsement Program

Hero's Don't Wear Capes....They Wear Dog Tags.


  • Got TA GoGot TA Go Posts: 2,608 Captain
    Action 3. Establish Marine Protected Areas across the mid-shelf region and
    designate Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) for speckled hind and
    Warsaw grouper

    For anglers in the Florida Keys, this issue has been the topic for many discussions at meetings in bars, fishing clubs, public comment periods and dockside gatherings.

    Amendment 17(b), the closure of waters from 240’-seaward was directed at protection of the Warsaw Grouper and Speckled Hind and resulted in the complete closure of all the Deep-Water Grouper Species within the closure zone.

    The graphs present by the Council echo public comment.

    Less than 5% of occurrences of all angler interaction occur in the waters of the Florida Keys in the closure area in place now. As a matter of fact, the information that is being provided now was available at the time the Council took the economically devastating actions that it did when it approved Amend 17(b).

    Even given that fact, here we are now trying to undo what has already been done. I applaud the Council’s effort to right the wrong and won’t belabor the obvious fact that this action is the one we should have been discussing when we arbitrarily closed hundreds of thousands of square miles of waters to anglers.

    I would support looking for specific areas to designate protection as long as it allows for open access to all anglers for species not in the restricted listing. If there are other species known to aggregate in the HAPC and the dependent upon the rules of the specific HAPC, those species should also have the HAPC included as being protection areas for their management group.

    There should also be a clause that allows for “transiting” with the restricted species that have been harvested from open areas so as to not force fishermen to re-route around areas.

    - I would support looking to be more specific in protection areas as designated HAPC.

    Hero's Don't Wear Capes....They Wear Dog Tags.
  • Got TA GoGot TA Go Posts: 2,608 Captain
    Action 4. Designate Snapper Ledge (federal waters) within the Florida Keys
    National Marine Sanctuary as a Marine Protected Area

    I am aware of some of the local issues that are driving this request.

    I believe that this is being driving by a special interest group looking to target the area for their own industry gain.

    I am opposed to designating the Snapper Ledge as a Marine Protected Area.

    Hero's Don't Wear Capes....They Wear Dog Tags.
  • Got TA GoGot TA Go Posts: 2,608 Captain
    Action 5. Develop a recreational tag program for deepwater species

    As mentioned earlier, I am painfully aware of the impact Amend 17(b) on the anglers, both commercial and recreational, of the Florida Keys.

    I know that the Council took appropriate action after the last Public Comment hearing here in Key Largo when it opened the floor during that meeting to take comment on 17(b). That comment led to further discussion at the Council level later in the year which voted to over-turn the complete closure of Amend 17(b) areas.

    I, like many that fish the Deep-Water Grouper Complex, are still waiting for those areas to be opened.

    I also understand that there are some political concerns that took exception to opening these areas out of concern for the Warsaw/Speckled Hind issues. We are still waiting for the Secretary of Commerce to open our fishery and are quite surprised to find ourselves in the midst of more discussion over an already voted on, scoped and SAFMC approved action.

    Action 5 of this public comment is not as cut and dry as it may seem at face value. There are really two issues in play.

    First is the method in which the recreational angler catch data is collected and used. I will not waste the time speaking about the failures of MRFSS nor its replacement, MRIP.

    I would not be in favor of a fish “Tag” to be used as an “individual tag”. This would lend itself to being turned into a commodity which could be monopolized or used for personal gain. I do have a suggestion to present, which is one I have presented at the AP.

    Second is the allocation of the stock. You note the Recreational Sector “exceeded its allocation of Golden Tilefish in 2010 by 178% and in 2011 by 433%. The problem is obvious to me. When the Recreational Sector is only allowed access to 5% of the stock and you have overages in the levels being harvested, you have an allocation issue.

    I have addressed this at the AP level and have met with much resistance outside of the Recreational Sector.

    I think that it is important to note that the Recreational Sector will have a larger allocation in the newly designated Wreckfish Fishery (5%), which has been traditionally closed to the Recreational Sector, than it has in the Snowy Grouper fishery (3%).

    When one Sector holds greater than 95% allocation in the Golden Tilefish allocation and 97% allocation in the Snowy Grouper allocation and the other sector is exceeding its allocation granted by the Council, it may be time to address the allocations.

    When you combined a poor reporting system (MRFSS/MRIP) with a low allocation limit, it only stands to reason that there will be catches in “excess” of the allocation.

    I don’t believe it would solve anything nor would I support an individual “fish tag” program.

    However, I would like to offer to the Council another Alternative to consider.

    -Establish a Deep Water Grouper Complex Permit.
    1. This would serve to narrow down the universe of Recreational Anglers who participate in the fishery.
    2. Make it a “Vessel” permit to tie it to specific vessels that would give better data on where the fishing is actually taking place.
    3. Have a “For-Hire” permit available for charter boats.
    ---Would provide even more specific data on “who” is fishing the complex.
    4. The system for setting up the permit is already in place with NMFS and you could simply mirror the efforts already being done within the HMS system.
    ---Cost would be low as the effort is already in use with HMS.
    ---Anglers wouldn’t baulk about a $20 users fee.
    ---You could even get more precise catch data if you made a system for anglers to report their catches “on-line”.

    Council MUST re-visit the allocations and come to terms that reflect current real world usage of the resource.
    1. Existing allocations have been in place for a long time and do not represent the fishery today.
    2. It grates the fabric of fairness when anglers in the Keys have the knowledge and ability to harvest their own fish and can’t because it is closed to them.
    3. It gets worse when there are Commercial boats still harvesting the species and yet they can’t even go to market and buy it because it is sent out of the area or out of the country.

    Hero's Don't Wear Capes....They Wear Dog Tags.
  • Got TA GoGot TA Go Posts: 2,608 Captain
    Action 6. Increase the minimum size limit for Hogfish

    At the AP meeting this was discussed at length and was accompanied by scientific “life history” for Hog Snapper.
    Based on the information provided to the Council and AP members, I supported the recommendation for an increase in the minimum size and will continue to.

    I think that the Council needs to make sure that the general public has access to the same information as provided to the AP. If the general public was more aware of the life cycle for Hog Snapper, I too believe they would see the benefit.

    I would expect that resistance to an increase will be greatest in the Florida Keys and that the issue should be the subject for more discussion.

    Hero's Don't Wear Capes....They Wear Dog Tags.
  • Got TA GoGot TA Go Posts: 2,608 Captain
    Action 8. Add African pompano to the appropriate fishery management unit

    I support placing African Pompano into a Management Unit.

    Action 9. Modify permits and data reporting to ensure Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) are not exceeded

    Given the abilities of technology today, it is time to bring reporting up to date.

    At the end of the fishing year for 2011, it was expected that the SA Commercial Grouper fishery would reach its ACL and was slated to be closed before Dec 31st.

    That was not done based on concerns that the Council would not be able to get the word out to the fishermen in time.

    In the days we live in now, there should be no reason that we can’t get the information from the fishhouses/wholesalers in a timely fashion to turn that information around to the fishermen.

    Our current system will be shown, at should at least should show, that through inadequate reporting and lack of notification fishermen were allowed to exceed their ACL.

    Its 2012, bring the system to today’s standard and don’t set your fishermen up for failure. Let’s do something to help them stay within the guidelines that are set forth.

    Hero's Don't Wear Capes....They Wear Dog Tags.
  • CaptBobBryantCaptBobBryant Posts: 5,716 Officer
    I am not so much against Marine Protected Areas, we have thousands of national parks that are closed to commercial use, but still allow recreational use.

    I think we can live with a few areas designated as dive only or recreational fish only and the like, I woudl even support that if there is especially sensitive habitat (natural coral etc) to limit or eliminate anchoring, but still allow trolling and drifit fishing.

    I am against closing off entire areas to any and all use.
    National Association of Recreational Anglers - Add Your Voice
  • brettfitzbrettfitz Posts: 438 Deckhand

    That offshore stuff is not my usual area of direct involvement, but I sure did appreciate this post. Educational, and it clearly took a major effort on your part.

    In the long haul, actions like yours - based more on your personal investment of learning about the entire process and trying to be proactive - are what will save both inshore and offshore recreational fishing.

    Thanks, and don't give up.

    "A 'real' fisherman is one who thinks like I do. There are more of us around than you might suspect."
    -John Gierach
  • SlackerSlacker Posts: 1,804 Captain
    I plan to be at the Jacksonville meeting tonight to speak against the MPA. If we don't stop the Feds they will have these MPA's all over the ocean, including everyone's favorite fishing spot.
  • CaptBobBryantCaptBobBryant Posts: 5,716 Officer
    Slacker wrote: »
    I plan to be at the Jacksonville meeting tonight to speak against the MPA. If we don't stop the Feds they will have these MPA's all over the ocean, including everyone's favorite fishing spot.

    The concept of MPA should be to set aside areas for public use and limit or eliminate commercial use.
    Just as our national parks are places to hike, hunt and fish so should the National Parks at sea.

    If we look completely inflexible to the notion of areas set aside as "Parks" we look unreasonable. What we must do is to ensure that all areas managed by the Federal governemnt are accessible to people.
    National Association of Recreational Anglers - Add Your Voice
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