Catch share programs are depleting fishing fleets

By BILL KELLY

KEY WEST
Jim Clements’ misleading statements about the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council-appointment process (“Big government must butt out of local fisheries,” op-ed, May 24) mirror his shortsightedness and flawed rationale for supporting one of the most contentious and volatile fisheries management plans ever conceived of — catch shares.

For starters, Gov. Scott does not make appointments to any of the regional fishery management councils. The governor nominates qualified candidates to those positions and appointments are made by the Secretary of Commerce. John Sanchez, the governor’s final selection for a commercial seat on the Gulf Council, is very well-known to fishermen throughout Florida. John served as executive director to the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association for five years and also served on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council from 1997-2000.

Sanchez enjoys the support and endorsement of numerous commercial, recreational and charter fishermen,  including Southeastern Fisheries Association, Southern Offshore Fishing Association, Panama City Boatmen’s Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, National Association of Charterboat Operators, Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Organized Fishermen of Florida and the Florida Guides Association, all of which have been in existence for more than 20 years, and one as long as 60.

Clements is like others invested heavily in the controversial fishery management scheme being sold by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), hoping for huge returns based on cornering the market in the snapper/grouper fishery at the expense of generational fishermen.
At the request of industry, Rep. Steve Southerland has stepped to the plate in Washington to protect Florida fishermen from catch shares programs being shoved down their throats. Catch shares, or variations thereof, are wreaking havoc in New England and the negative effects are now being felt in the Gulf of Mexico.

 Synonymous with catch shares programs is irrefutable documentation of fleet reduction and job loss so severe that Massachusetts and several cities are suing the federal government because of threats to their local economies.

Further exacerbating the situation are the many millions of dollars being spent in Washington by the EDF pushing the catch shares concept. EDF, with no prior history of fisheries management, but being well-connected in D.C., claims catch shares are the panacea for all that ails our oceans. The reality is most of America’s fish stocks are in great shape, with a relatively small number undergoing rebuilding regimens working so well that the National Marine Fisheries Service actually declared an end to over-fishing in U.S. waters earlier this year.

We, the groups striving to bring commercial and recreational fishermen together for the good of the resource and the industry, salute Gov. Scott for his nomination of John Sanchez to the Gulf Council and offer our sincere appreciation to Rep. Steve Southerland for his support of all fishermen and efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of our coastal communities.

Capt. Bill Kelly is executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association.

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