September 8, 2016

South Carolina: South Atlantic Council to Discuss Contentious Management Measures at Next Meeting

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meets next week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to discuss pending management options that eventually could impact recreational anglers from North Carolina to the Florida Keys. One item on the agenda is a proposed reallocation of dolphin fish (also called mahi-mahi or dorado) from the recreational to the commercial sector. Dolphin historically have been predominately a recreational fishery, with some commercial harvest as largely bycatch in other fisheries. However, the commercial longline harvest has increased substantially in recent years, causing the commercial fishery to close early while recreational anglers have remained well under their quota. As a result, the South Atlantic Council is exploring shifting quota to the commercial sector.

Another item on the agenda is the proposal to limit the entry of charter/for-hire vessels in the coastal migratory pelagics, snapper, grouper, dolphin and wahoo recreational fisheries. Charter captains who have some history of landing these species prior to June 15, 2016 will be allowed to continue their business of taking recreational anglers on their boats, while anyone else seeking to start a charter/for-hire business could be excluded. This is a similar scenario to what has occurred with the reef fish fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, where a moratorium on new entries for the charter/for-hire fleet went into effect in 2001. Today, the recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf is further divided between those charter captains still holding a reef fish permit and the rest of the license-buying public in what is known as “sector-separation.” Limited entry for the charter fishing industry is the first step towards pursuing individual fishing quotas or some other form of “catch share.” If this measure ultimately passes at the South Atlantic Council, the same highly contentious management model that has divided the recreational community in the Gulf of Mexico will be poised to move to the South Atlantic as well.

Recreational anglers are encouraged to attend the public comment portion of the South Atlantic Council meeting, to be held Wednesday, September 14, at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, to voice their opinions. 

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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