SAFA News   |    The South Atlantic Fishermen's Association

The State of Our Fisheries

Posted By: Matthew Ruby | March 22, 2012

It has been almost a month since the vermillion snapper closure in the South Atlantic, and many fishermen, me included, are feeling the strain. I have been a commercial fisherman in these waters for more than 14 years and have been running my own fishing business since 2006. Throughout the years I have seen fishery closures come faster and fishing conditions get more dangerous. This makes it hard for us to provide for our families and calls into question the future of our trade. The effects of our current management system can also be seen in seaside communities up and down the coast, with local restaurants and suppliers suffering from these shortened seasons.

Today I will be speaking before a Congressional appropriations subcommittee to let them know firsthand of the difficulties we are seeing in the South Atlantic. It is my hope, and that of all our SAFA members, that this will lead to adequate funding for fisheries management and the appropriate latitude to locally make management decisions based on what is best for our community.

While times have been tough and it looks like they might continue that way a little while longer, we at SAFA continue to look for different, more efficient, ways for our fishery to be managed. We understand that fishery management decisions are often complicated, contentious, and difficult. But what SAFA wants, as local stakeholders, is the opportunity to work with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to evaluate and adopt catch shares if that is what is best for the resource.

What we want is management that gives commercial fishermen flexibility and more time on the water. More effective management options, like catch shares, have been demonstrated as an effective approach to helping fishermen keep their jobs and sustain their livelihoods and ensure the long-term conservation of the resource.

With the management tools authorized by Congress, including catch shares, on the table, SAFA can work with its fishermen and members to determine, locally, what is best for our businesses and the future of South Atlantic fisheries. It should be our decision, not budget decisions or legislative enactments on appropriations bills that determine the use of catch shares in the South Atlantic.

We are all trying to make it through these difficult times. Now, while the trouble with the current management system is clearer than ever, is the time to look for a change. The future of our region's commercial fishing industry is at stake. We hope you'll continue to spread the word about SAFA and if you haven't already, we hope you'll join our organization and support our search for a more responsible management of our fisheries.

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