Self-imposed restrictions forcing South Atlantic Council to close fishery
In a letter to South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Chairman David Cupka, Coastal Conservation Association is urging the Council to take common-sense steps to remedy an unnecessarily restrictive rebuilding plan for black sea bass. The pending closure on black sea bass, proposed for October to June, compounds an already difficult offshore angling environment still reeling from closures on red snapper, groupers and vermillion snapper.
“We are left with very little for avid bottom fishermen to pursue in the south Atlantic, especially during the winter,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s South Atlantic Fisheries Committee. “Bottom-fishing trips have been a staple for recreational fishermen and these closures are cascading at a time when coastal communities have fewer tourists and are already reeling from the troubled economy.”
At the heart of the black sea bass debacle is the Council’s adoption of a “constant catch” strategy in 2006 that has restricted all participants with artificially low harvest limits.
“It is now painfully apparent that the Council made a mistake when it approved the constant catch rebuilding strategy in 2006,” wrote Bird. “While that strategy, promoted at the time by the commercial sector and the headboat industry, shielded those sectors from painful harvest reductions early in the rebuilding program, it subsequently shackled all participants with artificially low harvest limits that are locked in for the duration of the program.”
Under the constant catch strategy, the highest harvest levels of the entire rebuilding timeframe occurred in the first two years when arguably the fewest fish were available. After that, allowable harvest levels dropped significantly for the remaining eight years. Meanwhile, the black sea bass stock is behaving exactly as expected – it is responding to management and rapidly rebuilding. As it does, recreational anglers are encountering them more frequently and catching their quota far more quickly, resulting in the current proposal to close the fishery from October to June.
CCA is calling for three remedies for the black sea bass closure: Switch the rebuilding strategy to allow for greater recreational quotas while still achieving the 2016 rebuilding deadline; add any harvest increases allowed by the current benchmark stock assessment as soon as possible, and incorporate fishery independent data to fully corroborate the stock status.
“It is unconscionable that we are still managing high-value recreational fisheries without the fishery independent data necessary to corroborate the catch data,” wrote Bird. “We would urge that the Council demand the resources necessary to incorporate fishery independent data to establish the greatest level of confidence in future stock assessments.”
for a copy of the letter to the South Atlantic Council.
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.