Anglers oppose commercial longline fishing permits

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Recreational boating and fishing groups are speaking out against a permit that would allow longline fishing vessels into an area that had been previously closed to them because of the depleted swordfish population.

The groups submitted public comment to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in opposition to an Exempted Fishing Permit that would allow pelagic longline vessels into the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area.

More than two decades ago, swordfish in the Western Atlantic were in serious trouble due to overfishing, according to the Center for Sportfishing Policy.

The public responded forcefully to the plight of swordfish, and as a result, nursery areas were identified and closed to the U.S. pelagic longline fleet in 2001.

An unintended benefit of the closures has been the establishment of what the Center calls the nation’s best sailfish fishery.

“Ever since the fishery was deemed recovered, there have been ill-conceived attempts to reopen the closed areas to commercial harvest and expose it to the types of intense commercial fishing pressure that drove it into an overfished condition in the first place,” said the Center for Sportfishing Policy in a statement.

“Under the guise of research, Dr. David Kerstetter has filed his second application in less than a year for a federal exempted fishing permit to introduce longlining into the East Florida Coast PLL Closed Area – this one under the name of a company he formed in December 2017, Florida Fisheries Solutions LLC,” according to the CSP.

“We appreciate the opportunity to provide comment on this EFP and convey to you that our organizations see no legitimate need for the proposal and have a great deal of concern on the potential impacts of the proposed research,” said the groups in the letter. “We question whether this proposal is truly about science or merely being used as a tool of convenience for a single longline operator to gain access to nearby pristine fishing grounds.”

The dead discards that could be generated by the 3,240 longline sets proposed for Kerstetter’s permit are an additional 5,199 juvenile swordfish, 1,335 blue marlin, 392 white marlin and 2,421 sailfish. These fish would be killed over and above what would take place in the PLL fishery if the EFP was not issued.