SAFA News   |    The South Atlantic Fishermen's Association

Commercial fisherman are at risk

January 22, 2012

From Jack Cox, Morehead City, N.C.
Published in the Carteret News-Times


In December, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council decided to severely limit the number of fishermen allowed to use traps, the primary gear used to harvest black sea bass, by issuing black sea bass endorsements. This will deal a serious blow to many long-time fishermen who supply local markets and coastal communities with fresh black sea bass and will cut the number of black sea bass fishermen by nearly half. For North Carolina, which has relied on fishing for generations, endorsements likely mean the end of fishing.

In less than a year, fishermen will be required to have a federally issued black sea bass endorsement to trap black sea bass. These endorsements will shut out many hard-working dedicated South Atlantic fishermen because to qualify, fishermen must have harvested a lot of black sea bass.

This is bad news for many fishermen in North Carolina that have focused on harvesting fewer, high quality black sea bass. It is also bad news because over half of the black sea bass trap fishermen will no longer be able to use traps to fish for black sea bass.

A recent analysis of the black sea bass endorsement program by Cap Log Group (www.caploggroup.com) shows the impact of this program on different towns and counties in North Carolina. According to Cap Log Group, this means no fishermen in Dare County will receive endorsements, and less than half of the fishermen in Carteret and Onslow counties will receive endorsements.  All over coastal North Carolina, fishermen will have to find new work. Of the 60 black sea bass fishermen in North Carolina, 18 will be able to continue fishing.

In voting for this program, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council was trying to decrease the pressure on the black sea bass population. This is a goal we agree with.  But there are better ways to achieve this than a program that eliminates nearly half of an industry.

The South Atlantic Fishermen's Association is proposing an alternative. It is a voluntary individual fishing quota (IFQ) program where individual fishermen are allocated the privilege to harvest a portion of the total commercial quota based on their historical catches. Unlike the endorsement program, a voluntary IFQ has no eligibility requirement or minimum harvest requirement that eliminates fishermen. A voluntary IFQ will give participating fishermen the ability to fish year-round and create more stable and sustainable businesses. Individual fishing quota programs have worked elsewhere throughout the country and we'd like to try it here.

Read the rest at the Carteret News-Times website.

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