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U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Moving to Save South Atlantic Red Snapper Fishery

Thursday, June 4, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mike Davin
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On Friday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross met with recreational fishing and boating industry leaders at Maverick Boat Group, Inc. in Fort Pierce, Fla., to discuss marine recreational fishing access and the importance of marine recreation to the U.S. economy. Following a tour of the manufacturing facility, Secretary Ross indicated good news is ahead for South Atlantic red snapper and that his office is finalizing the rule requiring descending devices onboard vessels targeting snapper and grouper in the South Atlantic.

During the visit, Secretary Ross spoke with the group about challenges facing the marine industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic and actions the Administration could take to promote recreational access and spur economic growth. Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL-18) also participated in the roundtable with representatives from the across the industry supply chain. According to NOAA Fisheries, our nation’s 9.8 million saltwater anglers support 472,000 jobs and annually contribute $67.9 billion in economic generation.

As the economy is reopening, industry executives are focused on keeping their employees safe while providing exceptional customer service to Americans who want to enjoy the great outdoors. Outdoor recreation accounts for 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP with recreational fishing and boating topping the list as the largest contributors to that output.

Anglers have been frustrated in recent years by the ever-decreasing South Atlantic red snapper season as they encounter more and more fish on the water. One problem has been the rate at which these fish die after they are released due to the effects of barotrauma, a condition that results from increased pressure of internal gasses as deep-water fish are brought rapidly to the surface. NOAA Fisheries counts the high number of estimated dead discards against harvestable quota each year resulting in shortened seasons, with Indications earlier this year from the body pointing to a three-day 2020 season.

The recreational fishing and boating community have long advocated for the use of descending devices to reduce the mortality rate of prized reef fish such as snapper and grouper. A descending device is a weighted hook, lip clamp, or box that will hold the fish while it is lowered to a sufficient depth to recover from the effects of barotrauma and release the fish. On April 27, a coalition of recreational fishing and boating organizations supported the descending device rule in a public comment letter.

Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council are to be commended for their leadership on the descending device requirement. Long before the Council approved Amendment 29 for secretarial review, the Council actively promoted best fishing practices when catching and releasing fish. Furthermore, CSP partners the American Sportfishing Association and Coastal Conservation Association led by example educating the angling public through their programs FishSmart Conservation Project and ReleaSense, respectively. NMMA worked tirelessly with our partners to support this important measure. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has a series of videos on its YouTube channel (FWC Saltwater Fishing) demonstrating how to use descending devices to treat barotrauma. Various descending devices have been manufactured for years and are available for retail sale. Thanks to the aforementioned educational efforts, thousands of anglers and guides already have been provided with descending devices at no charge.

The recreational fishing community stands ready to work with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries, and anglers in the implementation of the descending device requirement.

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