The recreational fishing and boating communities are applauding a decision by NOAA Fisheries to deny an Exempted Fishing Permit that would have allowed longline vessels into the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area.
“Angler conservationists can breathe a sigh of relief that the longline EFP application is no longer a threat to the conservation gains in the East Florida Closed zone,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, in a statement. “We will remain vigilant in protecting both this conservation zone we fought so hard for two decades, as well as this amazing catch-and-release sailfish fishery that has grown off the east coast of Florida.”
"We greatly appreciate NOAA's decision to keep the conservation zone off-limits to this destructive gear," said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. "Clearly the voices of recreational anglers and marine conservationists were heard. This is a great victory."
NOAA said the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area has created “the nation’s best sailfish fishery.” It said the direct economic benefit to coastal recreational fishing-related businesses and coastal economies has been “remarkable.”
“Saltwater recreational fishing along the east coast of Florida supports 35,523 jobs and has a sales impact of over $4 billion annually,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “Much of this economic activity is attributed to the tremendous sailfish fishery that has been supported in large part by the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area. The recreational fishing industry is relieved by NOAA’s announcement to not put this conservation success at risk by allowing longlining back into the area.”
The permit that NOAA Fisheries denied would have authorized vessels to make thousands of sets in the conservation zone for up to three years and sell the legal fish caught.