Federal Fishery Managers Decide Against Requirement for Vessel Monitoring Systems
Council considers public comment before taking vote on VMS; approves several amendments for public hearings
After considering public comment and recommendations from its advisory panels, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has decided not to move forward with an amendment that would have required the use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) for vessels with a Federal Commercial Snapper Grouper Permit in the South Atlantic. The decision was made during the Council's quarterly meeting last week in Stuart, Florida. The Council received over 300 written comments from the public on Amendment 30 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan that proposed the use of the satellite-based systems to enhance enforcement capabilities and data collection. The Council held a series of public hearings in April regarding the amendment and the majority of participants voiced strong opposition to the requirement. Fishermen cited costs associated with VMS as a primary concern, including installation, maintenance, and monthly fees for service. A federal fund is currently available to pay for the units, similar to an onboard computer, up to $3100. Fishermen and others also cited concerns about being monitored while fishing, referring to the units as "ankle bracelets", and questioned the need for VMS for data collection purposes. The Council will continue to explore options to improve electronic data collection.
Amendments Approved for Public Hearing
The Council also continued to review a broad range of management measures and approved six draft amendments for public hearings to be held August 5-15, 2013. The hearings will be held from New Bern, North Carolina to Key Largo, Florida and the specific dates and locations will be announced once they are finalized.
Regulatory Amendment 14 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan - The draft regulatory amendment addresses proposed changes for species within the snapper grouper management complex including greater amberjack, gag grouper, vermilion snapper, and black sea bass.
Amendment 5 to the Dolphin Wahoo Fishery Management Plan - The draft amendment includes minor revisions to the acceptable biological catch, annual catch limits, and other management parameters for dolphin and wahoo to incorporate updates to the Marine Recreational Information Program. Additionally, the amendment includes measures for revising the framework procedure for dolphin and wahoo, and establishment of commercial trip limits for dolphin.
Amendments 19, 20 and Framework to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan - Three draft amendments affecting fisheries for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia are being developed jointly by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Issues include: the sale of bag limit king mackerel and Spanish mackerel (including tournament sale of king mackerel); elimination of inactive king mackerel permits; modifications to income requirements for federal permits; transit provisions; annual catch limits and targets for cobia; transfer at sea and gillnet allowances for Spanish mackerel; trip limits for king mackerel; and consideration of regional annual catch limits for king mackerel and Spanish mackerel.
Amendment 8 to the Coral Fishery Management Plan - The amendment includes alternatives for expanding protection of of Deepwater Coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs) and transit provisions through the Oculina Bank HAPC located off the central east coast of Florida.
NOAA Fisheries' Southeast Fisheries Science Center provided the Council with an update on the calculations for establishing the Annual Catch Limit for red snapper in 2013 and provided estimates for how long the recreational and commercial mini-seasons may last this year...
See the complete news release for additional information about the amendments approved for public hearings and the latest on red snapper.
The next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is scheduled for September 16-20, 2013 in Charleston, SC. Details for the meeting and meeting materials will be posted at www.safmc.net as they become available.
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