NMMA supports end to request for catch-share pilot program

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The National Marine Manufacturers Association said today that NOAA announced at a South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting that an exempted fishing permit that would have allowed a catch-share pilot program for six popular sportfish species was withdrawn.

The Coastal Conservation Association said the announcement that the South Atlantic Commercial Fishing Collaborative, made up of two sitting council members and one former member, were withdrawing their request for the permit was made at the council’s meeting in Jekyll Island, Georgia.

“Public sentiment against this EFP was overwhelming, which shows that the angling public is very much aware of these privatization schemes and they’ve had enough of them,” Bill Bird, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee, said in a statement.

“There should be no place for privatization of our public marine resources in the federal fisheries management system, but our fear is that this EFP will be retooled and reintroduced in the future when the noise dies down. Anglers in the South Atlantic will have to remain vigilant.”

The NMMA said the announcement represented a victory for the South Atlantic angling industry and anglers nationwide.

However, the NMMA is calling on members to help Keep America Fishing in its advocacy efforts around an application for another exempted fishing permit.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently received an EFP application to authorize a “research project” that could allow longline boats from one company exclusive permission to make more than 3,000 sets of 750 hooks each within Florida’s East Coast Longline Closed Zone.

The zone was closed 16 years ago to protect juvenile swordfish and other species, such as billfish, sea turtles and overfished shark species.

The NMMA said buoy gear, which replaced longlines, take no bycatch and have proved useful in sustaining marine resources and compatible with recreational fishing. It is estimated that 5,499 undersized swordfish, 759 billfish and 6,135 sharks would be killed by longlines under the EFP, the NMMA said.

Trade Only Today blogger Norm Schultz recently wrote about the need for boat dealers to get involved on behalf of recreational anglers in his March 21 post.

“The zone was closed 16 years ago to protect juvenile swordfish and other species like billfish, sea turtles and overfished shark species,” ASA’s Keep Florida Fishing manager Gary Jennings told Schultz. “The longlines, which produce devastating bycatch, were replaced with buoy gear that take no bycatch and have proven to be both useful in sustaining marine resources and compatible with recreational fishing.”

Not only have swordfish bounced back in strong numbers, but fishing for sailfish, yellowfin tuna, marlin, and other recreational species have rebounded, as well.

The NMMA said it is supporting and applauds Keep Florida Fishing’s and Keep America Fishing’s efforts to block the EFP.

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