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The Honorable Rick Scott
Office of the Governor
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

Dear Governor Scott:
We, the undersigned, are making a formal complaint regarding the Our Florida Reefs Community Working Group (OFR) process that is developing recommendations for the management of the southeast Florida coral reef tract from Stuart to Key Biscayne. As Governor, we greatly appreciate your continued recognition of the value recreational fishing and boating brings to our State and the importance of sustainable resources and environmental responsibility. With this in mind, we have serious concerns that OFR’s recommendations relating to fishing restrictions and additional federal oversight over our state’s fisheries are not based on sound scientific principles and that the process used to generate those recommendations was significantly flawed. While OFR lacks regulatory authority, their recommendations will carry significant weight and will be used by outside entities and agencies to gain control of fisheries management in our own state waters.

Read more: OFR Formal Complaint Letter

Sector separation proponents seek to undo sunset provision

NOAA Fisheries announced last week that the 2016 red snapper season in federal waters will be just nine days while the charter/for-hire sector will have a 46-day season due to Amendment 40 - Sector Separation. Proponents of sector separation are now racing to lock the door behind them and leave private boat anglers fishing single-digit seasons for the foreseeable future.

When the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to approve Amendment 40 and split for-hire operators into a separate sector with a percentage of the recreational quota of red snapper to use as its own, the proposal included a "sunset provision" that automatically ends the controversial system after three years unless the Gulf Council takes action to extend it. Proponents of sector separation are now seeking to remove the sunset provision entirely after a single year!

Read more: Anglers needed to stop latest snapper stunt

ASMFC evaluation of red drum stock raises questions


The long-awaited red drum stock assessment was presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) this week, and the initial results show cause for concern.

The Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) for both the southern portion of the stock (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) and the northern portion (North Carolina and points north) should be at least 30 percent.  This means the spawning stock for red drum must be at least 30 percent that of an unfished stock.  The estimates revealed this week indicate an SPR of 17 percent for the southern portion and just 9.1 percent for the northern portion.  Recreational anglers in several states along the Atlantic Coast have voiced concerns about the status of the red drum population, but these estimates, if correct, are alarming. They indicate stocks could be slipping below a level needed to maintain a healthy stock.

Read more: Atlantic red drum assessment cause for concern

The future of recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is for sale in Texas.

While charter boats and private recreational anglers in the Gulf were only allowed to catch red snapper in federal waters on 10 days last year, two companies in Galveston, Texas have been taking recreational anglers red snapper fishing all year round.

What's more, the companies allow the fishermen to keep as many red snapper as they want each day, blowing past the two-fish-per-day federal limit.

The only thing limiting how many snapper the customers are allowed to keep is how much they are willing to pay.

The Texas companies have been getting around the federal limits and seasons by selling the "Catch Shares Fishing Experience." The Texas companies involved own "catch shares" of the commercial red snapper fishery that allow them to harvest a set number of pounds per year for commercial sale.

Instead of catching those fish with a professional crew and selling them to a fish house, the captains are taking recreational anglers fishing and letting them buy the fish afterward.

For the customers, the catch share experience represents the ultimate fishing trip, where they can keep many more snapper than the two per person per day allowed under federal law. Meanwhile, the boat captains running the trips are able to market the fish as "fresh fish caught that day," which command a much higher price at the dock than most commercially caught snapper.

For the rest of this story, please visit http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2016/04/post_111.html.

Sportfishing is big business in Florida. More than 3 million people fish for fun here every year, and one out of every three of those anglers comes from out-of-state or out-of-country. Florida anglers support more than 80,000 jobs and generate $8.6 billion in economic activity, while boating industry generates another $2.3 billion in retail sales and directly employs another 40,000 people.

Anglers also make major contributions toward managing our natural resources. We are often the first to identify habitat and water quality issues, and it is our dollars that fund critical conservation efforts through excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuel. In Florida alone, anglers contribute nearly $40 million a year toward conservation and restoration efforts.

Read more: Sportfishing is big business in Florida

Our Florida Reefs
c/o Francisco Pagan, Ph.D
Manager, FDEP Coral Reef Conservation Program
Florida Coastal Office
1277 NE 79th Street/JFK Causeway
Miami, FL 33138-4206

Dear Mr. Pagan:

Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) supports healthy fisheries and habitat, including our coral reefs. When appropriate, CCA has supported a number of spawning season area closures in the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. CCA has an active habitat restoration and artificial reefs placement program. CCA's mission is focused on scientific approaches to sound fisheries management for present and future generations to enjoy the resource. Within these parameters, CCA supports angler access.

First, Recommended Management Action (RMA) N-146 proposes up to 24 marine protected areas (MPAs) that in some cases will ban fishing over 20% to 30% of the reef tract from the northern boundary of Martin County to the southern boundary of Dade County. CCA does not support the establishment of MPAs unless, they are scientifically based, have stated goals and that MPAs are the last resort. CCA does not support using MPAs as a first stage management tool. While CCA is opposed to implementing no take/no fishing zones or Sanctuaries, CCA would ask that fisheries managers consider protecting spawning aggregations by limited time and area closures if warranted by stock assessments and good fisheries management practices.

Read more: CCA Florida Open Letter to OFR

CCA Florida, Duckwall Foundation and Building Conservation Trust  join effort to enhance habitat around Fantasy Island

Coastal Conservation Association Florida recently announced a $25,000 contribution towards helping enhance fisheries habitat around Fantasy Island in Tampa Bay. CCA Florida led the charge after the organization received a generous $25,000 matching 2 to 1 challenge grant award from the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation for the Fantasy Island project. In order to receive the Duckwall Foundation grant award, CCA Florida was required to raise $50,000 for the matching fund requirement. CCA Florida worked with CCA National’s Building Conservation Trust (BCT) to secure the required additional $25,000. Tampa Bay Watch separately raised $75,000, and now that all permits are in hand, the $150,000 project is ready to proceed.

Read more: Oyster reefing project set for Tampa Bay

Alabama senator proposes significant fixes for Gulf red snapper mess


WASHINGTON, DC (12-16-15) – Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) made clear in June that he intended to level the playing field for recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico by inserting several provisions dealing specifically with red snapper into the  Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill. With introduction of the Congressional Omnibus Appropriations bill today, Sen. Shelby strengthened his commitment to fight for anglers with specific language on state boundaries as well as red snapper allocation and stock assessments.

“Senator Shelby's leadership and commitment to tackling the challenges facing the red snapper fishery has paid off,” said Mitch Brownlee, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association. “ The provisions authored by Sen. Shelby included in the omnibus, specifically ensuring that the red snapper stocks are properly counted, that there is more local involvement in the process, and moving the state boundary lines from three to nine miles, are huge wins for fishermen across the Gulf. CCA is very grateful for Sen. Shelby's continued efforts, and we are optimistic that these changes will lead to what we all hope for – a longer fishing season."

Read more: Sen. Shelby champions recreational anglers