Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011
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Long Line fishing gear conversion INITIATIVE
Longline gear is problematic and has a disproportionate adverse effect on EFH and on the reef fish fisheries, particularly grouper.
The Fishing Rights Alliance is an organization of fishermen that is dedicated to the conservation of our marine resources, access to those resources and the use of individual, attended effort gear in both the recreational and commercial sectors.
Our vision of the future of the fishery: An artisanal fishery using individual, attended effort gear to efficiently harvest the public resource within sustainable limits.
Trip limits of 5000 pounds will effectively discourage over-capitalization by harvesters, produce fresher fish, reduce market glut currently experienced, encourage stable prices and lead to a year-round fishery.
PARTIES INVOLVED AND AFFECTED.
A legal mandate to protect the Essential Fish Habitat from the adverse effects of fishing exists. Longline gear has a disproportionately adverse impact on the fishery and EFH and the elimination of its use would be very beneficial to the EFH and fishery.
The FRA promotes this initiative to ensure the sustainability of the fish stocks as well as the stability of participants and consumers.
Enhance the fisheries, protect Essential Fish Habitat and Habitat Areas of Particular Concern and enable sustainable, economically viable use of a valuable resource by the scientific, commercial, recreational and environmental-concern sectors of the fishery.
Prevent, to the extent practicable, adverse effects of fishing in the defined areas of Essential Fish Habitat by prohibiting the use of long line gear in waters shallower than fifty fathoms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Convert long line fishing gear effort to vertical hook and line gear effort.
Provide current long line gear users with options for gear conversion that include economic consideration for losses arising from the required conversion.
Generate funding for conversion program costs from those who will benefit from the conversion. Those beneficiaries include the remaining commercial operators, the recreational sector and the environmental-concern interests.
All commercial boats with violations, as well as any longline boats remaining in the fleet, are required to be equipped with a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).
Impose enforceable trip limits.
Develop a year-round commercial fishery.
AFFECTED AND INVOLVED SECTORS OF THE FISHERY
Affected or involved parties include, but are not limited to:
Fishermen, both commercial and recreational, fishing boat owners, fish dealers, fish processors, bait and tackle suppliers and dealers, boat dealerships, repair industry, fishing guides, recreational fishing groups and environmental-concern groups.
To the stock and habitat:
Reduced mortality of discards and bycatch.
The primary beneficiary of this plan is the grouper stock and the EFH.
To the commercial sector:
Fishermen will benefit from a healthier habitat and increased fish biomass.
Year round fishery should be possible.
Ex-vessel price of grouper should increase, resulting in major economic benefits for fishermen, commercial boat owners and fish dealers.
Commercial fishermen will have a much less volatile market for their fish.
VMS for safety and communication.
Fresher commercial fish will command higher ex-vessel prices as well as higher retail prices.
To the Recreational sector:
Recreational fishermen will enjoy better fishing opportunities.
Increased economic impact of recreational fishing.
Encourages participation in resource management.
The Environmental-concern sector:
Achieves environmental protection goal.
Protects habitat and fisheries.
The Scientific Community:
Enhanced research opportunities.
Increase user group awareness.
To the General Public:
Balanced resource management.
Stability in consistent availability of fresh domestic fish, year round.
All parties involved, except the fish, should derive economic benefits.
Most directly impacted initially will be medium and large long line gear boats. Maintaining a catch or income level using vertical gear would be difficult for some current long line gear users. Impact compensation should be based previous catch history and current catch rates.
Another impact on medium and large operators is that their current boats are too large to be efficient vertical hook and line boats. These boats should be given consideration, to be determined, for a boat conversion program. For example, some large volume longline boats might be worth two bandit boats. This would allow a large operator the opportunity to continue to produce income based on his efforts. The new boats could be fished, sold or declined in lieu of cash.
Other economically impacted parties might include fish processors and fish dealers, should the supply of fish be significantly reduced. The determination of impact will require further evaluation using various grouper price and supply scenarios.
VMS systems for each boat in the fishery should be provided through NOAA based on the enhancement of enforcement and data collection efforts.
THE FUNDING SOURCES
$35 Million "Longline gear buyout" loan. This loan should be used to buy out longline gear and fits into the longline gear conversion program. Contributions from other sectors will allow the full loan amount to be utilized in the conversion program.
Since the recreational sector stands to benefit from a longline gear conversion program, and as an act of good stewardship on the part of the recreational angler, the recreational sector in FL seems willing to financially support funding of such a gear conversion initiative through a stamp for the saltwater fishing license. As Gulf Grouper are the species of benefit, the stamp should be required to possess Gulf Grouper, just like a snook or spiny lobster stamp. The Gulf Grouper distinction is the same as the state’s distinction between Atlantic and gulf grouper. A stamp cost of $2-3 should be sufficient.
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