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Snapper Ban Update

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On: Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 3:05PM | By: Lee Clymer

The war between fishermen and lawmakers over snapper fishing is heated as a crematorium furnace on the south pole. On Thursday, July 15th, new legislation was introduced that has both sides working the debate of the Atlantic snapper fishery hard.

For those of you unaware, there is a law already in effect that bans all snapper fishing in areas of the south Atlantic from North Carolina to Cape Canaveral. Florida’s concern is from south Georgia to Cape Canaveral. There is also legislation on the table to ban all bottom fishing. The depth of effect on all levels of fishing would be devastating, but so would continued overfishing, if that is truly the case. Thus, the debate rages.

Senator Bill Nelson has submitted bill S.3594, called the “The Fishery Conservation and Transition Act”. It lays down the law so to speak in that it builds and marks the foundation and boundaries of how the law can be enacted that will control the fishery. This affects not only the snapper fishing but all types of bottom fish. His bill would allow for bottom fishing of most fish but still ban the keeping of snapper, and would require the release of all snapper caught.

The Pew Environment Group, on the other hand, supports full closure of the area to bottom fishing. They are a non-profit organization pushing against the bill. According to, Holly Binns, manager of Pew’s campaign to end fishing in the area, states the area is already overfished and this would add to the depletion. She believes advocates for leaving the fishery open would destroy a very carefully crafted plan to save snapper fishing.

One of Pew’s antagonists, David Nelson, of Port Orange, a leader among fisherman against the legislation, says the science is wrong and it shouldn’t be presumed the fishery is as bad as claimed by the Pew Environment Group and government scientists.

There is already a lawsuit fighting the ban that would cover almost 5000 square miles and 73 species of snapper, grouper, and other fish, and would be indefinitely enforced in Florida. The suit challenges the three percent population claimed by government’s current study. The problem the fishermen are fighting is the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council believes the three percent assessment and has approved the current measures.

South Carolina and North Georgia fishermen are already ramping up because they believe the ban will soon be extended permanently in their area as well. Fishermen all over are getting jumpy. Many believe this will be more critical to them than the oil slick in the gulf. Commercial fishermen, guides, charter boats, and sportsmen are trying to understand everything that’s happening, hoping to understand while there’s time to figure out exactly how best to handle it and strike a balance between the fishermen and the conservationists.

Before the final legislation can be approved, the U. S. Commerce department has to have their say, and the law has to have their approval.

Volusia County is tackling the problem head on and may be an example to follow. County Manager James Dinneen has advocated building more near-shore reefs. There are thirteen there now and he wants to at least double that. Part of the reason for his concern is the pressure the ban will put on inshore reefs since the ban won’t apply to them. They are moving ahead quickly with two million dollars already approved by county council for exploration into the project. He and the council believe that time is of the essence and they want to beat out the possibility of being way behind the power curve if the law is permanently enacted.

No matter what happens this will be a war that shapes the future of the south Atlantic fishery and the southeastern United States, quite possibly for generations to come.


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