Longliners allowed back into conservation zone
Exempted fishing permit rolls back conservation gains for Atlantic billfish
A great marine conservation victory has been put in jeopardy by a highly controversial plan to reintroduce indiscriminate longlines into areas that have been closed to the damaging gear for decades.
In spite of the recreational angling community's united opposition, the federal Office of Highly Migratory Species has announced that a fleet of six longliners will be allowed into the conservation zones off Florida's east coast. Utilizing the federal exempted fishing permit program, a single company based on the east coast of Florida will be allowed to drop thousands of longline hooks inside Florida's East Coast Closed Zone targeting billfish and other species.
This action must be reversed and the gaping loopholes in the exempted fishing permit program that allowed it must be eliminated. Click the link below to find out more about this issue and for information to contact your Congressmen.
Please take a few minutes to help us reverse this misguided action and encourage your elected officials to support the Modern Fish Act, which contains language to reform the exempted fishing permit process. Click HERE to help prevent our hard-won conservation gains from being exploited and abused.
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Catch shares in marine fisheries is a concept unfamiliar to most people, and it is probably completely alien to most hunters and anglers in this country. It is a system of wildlife management that bestows some percentage of a public marine resource, like red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, to private businesses for free, to use and sell for their own profit.
|Thad Cochran, Chairman
US Senate Committee on Appropriations
113 Dirksen Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20510
|Patrick J. Leahy, Ranking Member
US Senate Committee on Appropriations
437 Russell Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Leahy:
As you contemplate the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, we write to you in support of increased funding levels to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Department of the Interior to expedite the completion of congressionally authorized Everglades and South Florida ecosystem restoration projects and the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike.
The Everglades is a national treasure, but manmade alterations, primarily by the USACE, have created significant environmental effects that must be remedied. Restoring the historic southerly flow of clean water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay (Bay) is critical to ensure public safety, maintain proper salinity in the Bay and to reduce the necessity for, and the frequency of, releases to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. In recent years, these releases to the east and west of Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers have resulted in catastrophic algal blooms and seagrass die-offs that have dramatically impacted not only the environment, but the sportfishing and boating industries in south Florida.
The announcement today of action to extend the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season is a welcome boon to anglers who have been painted into a corner by a federal fisheries management system that does not understand us, and would often just rather ignore us.
On the plus side, anglers are right to be encouraged by the willingness of this Administration and the Department of Commerce to improve recreational access to a historically robust Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. This alone is a tremendous achievement.
The recreational angling community should feel vindicated, and we should take heart that after years of being systematically sidelined by NOAA Fisheries, our efforts to encourage our elected officials in Congress to engage in this man-made management disaster are yielding results. We are being heard at the highest levels of our government, and that is a very good thing. As a result of our passion and our refusal to be cast aside, anglers will be allowed to venture into the Gulf of Mexico with their family and friends on weekends throughout this summer in pursuit of the most popular offshore fish in our waters. We owe our champions in Congress and the Secretary of Commerce our deepest thanks.