Fisheries Management: Cooperative between Fishermen and Government?
Building a Sustainable Fishery
The upcoming South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting will take place at Orlando’s Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel June 11-15. The meeting will present a valuable opportunity to both improve recreational offshore fishing, and also kick-start the economical engine fueled by the many recreational fishing businesses operating up and down the southeast Atlantic coast.
As a member of the Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel I’ve read and reviewed a mountain worth of fisheries data and related collateral materials, and at times it has seemed like I’ve spent more time sitting in management meetings some weeks than fishing. It wasn’t until mid-May, when I attended a Marine Protected Area Expert Workgroup in Savannah, Georgia, that I felt like we were finally starting to make progress toward better protecting and sustaining the snapper and grouper fisheries we target in federal waters.
This workshop was part of a series of workshops being held to give the public the opportunity to provide data on speckled hind and Warsaw grouper, as well as important habitat locations for these two species. By the time the workshop was completed, a wealth of knowledge was shared on the location of spawning and essential fish habitat for the grouper and snapper complex of fishes.
A diverse mixture of recreational and commercial fisherman representing their local region’s fishing industry attended and participated in the workshop. There was a mix of seasoned charter captains and commercial fishermen, a group with hundreds of years of on-the-water-experience between them, sharing their knowledge and wisdom in the name of conservation.
I personally found that the insightful comments and information provided by the handful of iconic fishermen attending turned a floodlight on both the need to protect essential fish habitat, and to establish a more realistic and historical baseline for our South Atlantic snapper and grouper fishery.
Stories about how one charter/commercial captain left the dock alone and returned after he caught, gutted and iced over 600 pounds of spawning black grouper with rod and reel in less than four hours on the day his son was born. Another story told was about how a grouper or snapper spawning area was found (without GPS or Loran) and fished out in a matter of a few days caught me by surprise. I’ll never forget the statement made by this extremely good Key West captain, “I caught every one of those fish, and as far as I know they never returned to that spawning area, ever again.”
The information shared on spawning/habitat locations for both grouper and snapper, and the historical baseline outlined by these men, were both amazing and priceless. They understood, first-hand, how a good rod and reel fisherman could remove spawning stocks from habitat indefinitely, and realize the importance of protecting both recreational and commercial fishing. These were the fishermen who garner great respect among their peers.
The time is now! If we play our cards correctly, the recreational sector could use its energies to help the council design sanctuaries that protect specific spawning areas and essential fish habitat for all grouper and snapper species. This could lead to reopening our red snapper fishery.
The recreational sector should also continue to encourage an increase in educational practices designed to decrease released catch discard mortality, plus enforcement and monitoring of any closed areas, along with improving and updating recreational fishing data collection. These steps could open the door for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to reduce tough regulations, open closed fisheries and help managers take a closer look at how they can work better with recreational anglers in the future.
The latest issue of the South Atlantic Update newsletter is now available from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
South Atlantic Update
I believe the only way that we will better sustain recreational fishing, and fishing dependent businesses, is if we increase the cooperation between fisheries managers and recreational anglers in the future.
Best Days to Fish: June 5-13
With June’s full moon arriving early in the month look for snook, tarpon and shark feeding activity to increase on the morning outgoing tides, however, a cloudy, day with offshore winds may stimulate the more nocturnal species to feed right during afternoon outgoing tides.
When clear water rules the surf flounder fishing will excel. Fish close to shore and near the bottom using soft plastic baits, driving lures or small live baits for your best chances at landing one of these delicious flat fish.
Dolphin continue to migrate along the South Atlantic coast. For the next month will provide good fishing mahi-mahi with cow and bulls between 15-30 pound coming from the bluewater.
2013 International Space Coast Surf Fishing Tournament
For winners and images from the Inaugural International Space Coast Surf Fishing Tournament go to
The next International Space Coast Surf Fishing Tournament will kick off Memorable Day weekend 2013.