September 11, 2013
Recreational and commercial fishermen and coastal business should be very concerned about an effort by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to create more no-fishing zones off North and South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida in a misguided reaction to radical environmental groups that are pushing for extraordinary and unjustifiable protections for two deep-water grouper species.
At its meeting next week in Charleston, the SAFMC will consider approving up to 18 new Marine Protected Areas, encompassing nearly 1,350 square miles of ocean, that were recommended by the council's MPA Workgroup as no-fishing zones for bottom fishing and even trolling in an effort to reduce the possible bycatch of speckled hind and warsaw grouper.
In 1994, commercial sales of speckled hind and warsaw grouper were prohibited and the recreational bag limit for each species was reduced to one, and in 2010 the fisheries were closed as a precautionary measure.
The council plunges forward with these protected areas despite the contrary advice of its Scientific and Statistical Committee, which said in an April 2012 report: "There isn't enough scientific backing to say [area] closures will do what managers need them to do... Currently, there is no analysis that shows any conservation benefits of [area] closures to these species."