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The Plight of Forage Fish and Mahi-Mahi

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.

No, I didn’t coin that statement; it’s John Buchan’s. But continued good fishing is also a charm for every marine retailer on either fresh or salt water, and that’s why the industry must respond to calls to support positive angling issues.

There are calls today to stand up for the little guys in our saltwater fisheries. It’s simple: To maintain healthy sport fish populations that draw so many boat buyers into our closing rooms, there first must be a healthy food base. Big fish need plenty of little fish to eat.

These forage fish provide food for nearly all recreationally important fish species, not to mention seabirds and other marine life. The taking of forage fish to make fertilizer, livestock feed and even cosmetics continues to skyrocket worldwide and needs to be addressed.

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for maintaining healthy marine and coastal ecosystems, including sustainable and productive fisheries. It’s time to legislatively direct protective measures for forage fish. Thankfully, a bill just introduced in Congress will help ensure forage fish get necessary protections.

The Forage Fish Conservation Act would require that the critical role species such as herring, sardines, shad and anchovies play in the marine ecosystem be accounted for when federal fisheries managers set commercial catch limits.

Saltwater sport fishing is a pastime that’s integral to social, cultural and economic life in coastal communities. It generates billions of dollars in economic activity annually, and studies indicate that 70 percent of recreational boats are used for fishing at least part time.

So take action and ask your members of Congress to support this bipartisan bill today.

Save the Mahi, too

Mahi-mahi, once prolific along Florida’s east coast, are becoming more and more meager on that side of the Sunshine State. Blair Wickstrom, publisher of Florida Sportsman, says that while many members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council acknowledge the problem, the only change on the horizon is a possible reduction of the boat limit from 60 to 54 fish.

This meaningless reduction of just six fish won’t cut it.

“The stock is collapsing,” charter captain Jon Reynold, president of South Atlantic Fishing Environmentalists, told the magazine. “Our organization and countless other anglers have tried to work through this regulatory process for around five years now. It’s clear the council does not have the recreational angler in mind.”

Sadly, the testimonials, letters and phone calls to significantly reduce the 60-fish limit have been ignored. So has a call to institute a maximum commercial limit. Recreational anglers are being ignored, and the council is putting the health and future of one of the most important fish of the recreational fishing industry at risk in favor of 70 operating longline boats.

“It’s time for the council to hear from us,” Wickstrom says. “For starters, let’s go on record demanding meaningful action to save the mahi fishery, the most popular offshore fish in Florida.”

Everyone can get on public record by signing a petition calling for a reduction in the boat limit to 30 fish; a 2,000-pound trip limit for commercial boats; maintaining the 10-fish-per-angler bag limit; and maintaining the 20-inch minimum length.

In addition to taking action themselves, dealers should urge their fishing customers to get on board and sign the petition.

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