On August 10, the National Marine Fisheries Service approved an Exempted Fishing Permit that would allow commercial longline vessels to re-enter the Florida East Coast Closed Zone and target swordfish.
According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Dr. David Kerstetter of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale was granted an EFP to evaluate the effectiveness of the zone by comparing fishing results in the closed zone with those in open areas. The vessels would be allowed to sell their catch to offset their expenses.
“This makes absolutely no sense at all,” said Jim Donofrio, RFA executive director in a statement. “The conservation benefits that have been accruing in the closed zone for the past 16 years will likely be lost. The fish we worked so hard to protect will now be caught and sold. And further, we don’t need any more studies of the closed zone or the longline fishery. It’s been studied and analyzed to death. NMFS has no business authorizing this unnecessary and potentially damaging project.”
Donofrio added that if NMFS was interested in gathering biological and catch per unit effort information from the closed area it would have utilized the recreational fleet, which is more than capable of capturing this data. He added that the approval of the EFP demonstrates the NMFS’s institutional bias toward the longline fleet.