Category Archives: South Atlantic

Debate simmers over Atlantic oil, gas exploration

On this dock, where captains and first mates are freshening their boats with coats of white paint and rigging up new shrimp trawling gear to take to springtime Atlantic waters, the debate over drilling for oil in East Coast waters divides colleagues and, occasionally, families. Much of Capt. Wayne Magwood’s pro-offshore drilling stance comes down to a pocketbook issue. Burning through 1,000 gallons of diesel a week in his boat Winds of Fortune is manageable with low diesel costs, but past high fuel prices have made the economics of shrimping nearly impossible. “I’m tired of paying $4 a gallon. I’d like to pay $2 a gallon,” the 64-year-old Magwood said. “We don’t want to be dependent on foreign oil. We can’t get it when we need it. I think it’s good for the local economy. Environmentalists are doing a good job of regulating it and they’ve done a good job in the Gulf.”,, But to many on South Carolina’s coast, good money isn’t about oil. It’s about a way of life, attractive to locals and visitors alike. click here to read this big article. 13:29

ICE searching shrimp boats docked at Mayport, Fernandina

A shrimping boat docked at Mayport and another at Fernandina Beach were searched Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office dive team and at least one officer of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were assisting in the Mayport search of the Mattie Fay at the dock of Safe Harbor Seafood, next to the U.S. Coast Guard Station. The Captain A.B. was the boat being searched in Fernandina. The two shrimping boats are owned by brothers, who had just returned from Key West after at least 20 days at sea. Leon Reid runs Mattie Fay and Ricky Armstrong runs Captain A.B. click here to read the story 13:37

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – Keep Offshore Oil Drilling and Seismic Testing Away From the Atlantic Coast

On April 6 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told the National Ocean Industries Association that an executive order was forthcoming that would start the process of rewriting the five-year plan for the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The next day an op-ed in Morning Consult by Carl Bentzel began Big Oil’s public relations campaign to paint oil/gas exploration and drilling off the Atlantic coast as safe and oil-spill free given new technology and safeguards. Mr. Bentzel argues that the “first steps should be responsible assessment of oil and gas resources in our South Atlantic Ocean.”  So let’s start with seismic airgun blasting that is the essence of this exploration. While proponents of seismic testing say the process is safe for marine life and will provide information for a public debate, neither point is factual. click here to read the op-ed 09:17

Where to find fresh South Carolina shrimp: ‘The more marsh, the more shrimp’

“Shrimp are more concentrated off inlets from which they come out,” said Mel Bell, fisheries director for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Fresh shrimp could soon be ready for the cooker. The 2017 season is on the cusp of opening, and some boats already have catches in federally controlled ocean waters. Another good year of shrimping is forecast, mostly because more crustaceans survived the winter in relatively warmer waters. The DNR plans offshore sample trawls in the coming week after encouraging numbers of shrimp were found in previous inshore trawls. Outer state waters could be opened after that. Last year, the outer state waters — roughly two miles from shore — opened April 11. The nearshore waters, the heart of the shrimping grounds, opened a month later. Meanwhile, the federal waters farther out never did close over the winter and a few boats have continued to work them when the weather allows it. click here to read the story 10:42

Snapper silliness still has anglers seeing red

The bumper sticker on the white Ford pickup truck could not have been more clear: “National Marine Fisheries Service: Destroying Fishermen and Their Communities Since 1976!” Poignant. Harsh, even. But tame by today’s standards. The sticker made me think of an issue affecting offshore bottom fishermen who depart inlets between the Treasure Coast and South Carolina. I’m no mathematician, but something fishy is going on with red snapper statistics. Red snapper, a larger cousin of mutton snapper and mangrove snapper, resides in waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It is presently off limits to harvest by east coast anglers, and has been since 2010. The reason? Because 10 years ago, fisheries statisticians determined that the red snapper fishery was “undergoing overfishing.” Along with “jumbo shrimp,” that expression is still one of my all-time favorite oxymorons. click to continue reading the story here 08:28

Coastal shark population on rise in southeast U.S, Gulf of Mexico

A recent analysis of population trends among coastal sharks of the southeast U.S. shows that all but one of the seven species studied are increasing in abundance. The gains follow an enactment of fishing regulations in the early 1990s after decades of declining shark numbers. Scientists estimate that over-fishing of sharks along the southeast U.S. coast—which began in earnest following the release of Jaws in 1975 and continued through the 1980s—had reduced populations by 60-99 percent compared to unfished levels.,, The researchers say their study—based on modeling of combined data from six different scientific surveys conducted along the US East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico between 1975 and 2014—provides a more accurate and optimistic outlook than previous studies based on commercial fishery landings or surveys in a single location. Read the article here 11:00

Coast Guard rescues 2 fishermen when vessel gets stuck on north Mayport jetty

The Coast Guard rescued two boaters Monday after the boaters’ fishing vessel became stuck on the north Mayport jetties. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Command Center watch standers received a call via VHF channel 16 at 8:29 p.m. from the crew of a 73-foot fishing vessel Privateer stating their vessel was taking on water. The two crew members stated their anchor slipped and caused them to drift into the north Mayport jetties. Coast Guard Station Mayport launched two 29-foot Response Boat–Smalls at 8:36 p.m. The two crew members were rescued at 8:56 p.m. and taken to Station Mayport with no reported injuries.  Coast Guard investigators and pollution responders are en route. A good Samaritan in the area also responded and assisted the RB–S crews in locating the fishing vessel. USCG 07:53

A full weekend of events! Darien gears up for the 49th Blessing of the Fleet

This weekend marks the 49th Blessing of the Fleet in Darien, and the festivities that attendees have come to expect will be there in spades under this year’s theme of “Saltwater Blessings.” “The local community is excited and everyone that normally makes their vacation or homecoming plans, for those that like to plan visits home around the festival, everybody is extremely excited and anticipating the festival,” said Kelly McClellan, festival director. “It’s spring break for the kids, so everyone will be around, we’ve got a lot of student volunteers this year.” The festival kicks off at 5 p.m. this Friday with the opening of vendor booths and the car show. At 6 p.m., the Swinging Medallions start playing on the concert stage. The event closes at 10 p.m. continue reading about the schedule of events here 10:59

Commercial fishing vessel and recreation boat collide – Coast Guard assists 4 boaters near Port Canaveral

The Coast Guard assisted four boaters Sunday after a commercial fishing vessel and recreation boat collided 2 miles east of Port Canaveral. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Command Center watch standers received a call from a members aboard the 48-foot fishing vessel Joyce Marie at 3:30 p.m. stating its outrigger and a 25-foot boat collided. A Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral 45-foot Response Boat –Medium crew launched to assist and embarked two adults and two children from the 25-foot boat after it became disabled. The boaters were taken to Jetty Park where EMS was waiting. Minor injuries were reported to an adult male. The cause of the collision is under investigation. USCG 19:09

Shark fins seized from shrimp boat off Key West

Florida wildlife officers made a grisly discovery aboard a Key West shrimp boat this week: dozens of pairs of dismembered shark fins. The boat was discovered about 20 miles north of the island Wednesday night, an indication illegal finning still occurs in Florida waters despite being banned more than 16 years ago. Buying and selling fins remains legal in most states, fueling a practice that targets some of the world’s biggest and longest-lived sharks, which are also among the planet’s oldest species. The boat was stopped by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, who alerted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service. FWC referred questions to NOAA, who declined to release details, saying it was too soon in the investigation. click here to read the story  07:49

SB-884: Florida lawmakers back bill setting big fines for ‘finning’ sharks

A Florida Senate panel approved legislation Wednesday to levy large fines on commercial fishermen caught carrying illegally harvested shark fins. Federal and state rules already ban finning – cutting off sharks’ fins and leaving the mutilated fish dying at sea. But there’s a legal market for fins, and in 2011 there were 96 tons of fins nationally that were shipped somewhere, either as imports or exports, according to a 2015 federal report. The bill, SB-884, approved by the appropriations subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee would require an automatic $5,000 administrative fine and a 180-day suspension of saltwater fishing licenses the first time a commercial shark fisherman is found with a severed fin. The fine would become $10,000 for a second offense and on the third time, the fisherman would be fined $10,000 and have his saltwater licenses permanently revoked. Read the story here, 14:42

How a Floating Bale of Cocaine Led to the Florida Keys’ Worst Murder in Decades

The Florida Keys are many things: a sun-bleached playground for the ultrarich, a blue-collar home to thousands of fishermen and hospitality workers, a rural chain of coral rock emerging just above the rising seas. There are ugly bar fights and plenty of drugs. But there’s hardly any gun violence. A young couple brutally executed a few feet from their young children? Never. Rosado and Ortiz’s mysterious killing on October 15, 2015, sent locals from Key Largo to Islamorada into a panic and left sheriff’s deputies scrambling. Detectives would follow a trail of violence and blackmail for months before divining its source: Jeremy Macauley, a fisherman with a troubled past who’d found a bale of pure cocaine floating in the turquoise sea. Months later, a prosecutor’s suicide and a surprise jailhouse interview would further muddy the tale. continue reading the story here 11:57

Sale and trade of shark fins to continue in Florida, and environmentalists are upset

Environmentalists sighed in disappointment after a Florida Senate bill banning the sale and trade of shark fins was amended last week, weakening its original intent. Originally proposed by Northeast Florida Senator Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, Senate Bill 884 would have thwarted the lucrative business of shark fin sales with strong language outlining the punishment and violations of the sale, trade or distribution of fins. “Eleven other states that had ports where this activity was taking place have already banned the sale and trade of shark fins,” said Erin Handy, campaign organizer for Oceana’s Climate & Energy Campaign in Florida. “Florida would have been the twelfth.” Handy speculates the state has been slow to implement rules against the sale and trade of shark fins due to the fishing industry. “There’s some opposition from the fishing industry saying the fins are the most valuable part and they should be able to sell them if they catch the shark and land it legally,” she said. That is called common sense! read the story here 08:49

Oversight Hearing on Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:00 AM

Oversight Hearing on: “Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries”  Click here to read the memo  Witnesses and Testimony: Dr. John Bruno Professor, Department of Biology University of North Carolina, Mr. Chett Chiasson Executive Director Greater Lafourche Port Commission,  Mr. Brian Hallman Executive Director American Tunaboat Association, The Honorable Jon Mitchell Mayor City of New Bedford Click here @ 10:00am and listen to the hearing. 19:05

Council for Sustainable Fishing – Catch share fishery management in the South Atlantic is dead

Press Release – Thanks to you and many others, catch share fishery management in the South Atlantic is dead – at least for now. Yesterday at the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council public hearing in Jekyll Island, GA it was announced that the pilot snapper-grouper catch share Exempted Fishing Permit application had been withdrawn. This back-door attempt to begin the privatization of our fishery resources by insiders, sitting SAFMC members Charlie Phillips and Chris Conklin and former SAFMC member Jack Cox, all commercial snapper-grouper fleet owners and dealers, met overwhelming opposition from fishermen all across the region. By the time of the well-attended public hearing, there were a total of 616 comments on the catch share EFP through the SAFMC’s online comment form: 600 comments or 97 percent against and just 16 comments or 3 percent for. continue reading the press release here 07:36

NOAA Turns a Blind Eye – How manipulation and corruption are making a mockery of federal fisheries management

This question often comes up in discussions about the federal fisheries management process: Why are people who profit from the harvest and sale of America’s marine resources allowed to sit on management bodies that make regulations governing those resources? It’s a good question. The most contentious issue in the Gulf of Mexico is privatization of the red snapper fishery in which millions of dollars’ worth of a public resource was gifted to select commercial operators to harvest for their own personal profit. Gifted, for free. Yet, someone who owns red snapper shares can sit on the Gulf Council and vote on every aspect of that fishery. And one does. Over the past few years, certain members of the charter/for-hire sector have worked to launch a privatization program in which they, too, could own shares and use red snapper as their own. Yet, on the Gulf Council, people who own charter businesses and stand to directly benefit from the program are never required to recuse themselves from votes on that program. continue reading the article here 08:24

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council may hike overall lobster harvest

Federal fishery managers meeting this week in Georgia hear proposals to raise the annual limit on spiny lobster harvests, the Florida Keys’ most economically important commercial species. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meets from Monday through Friday at the Westin resort in Jekyll Island, Ga. Permit limits in the for-hire (charter) sector in the snapper-grouper fishery also are up for discussion. The council is considering raising the annual catch numbers of spiny lobster because fishers contend that the number were based on yearly averages that include some of the worst lobster seasons on record. Twice in recent years, the harvests have exceeded the current catch limit of 7.3 million pounds. A legal sized spiny lobster weighs about 1 pound. During the bad seasons, “the historic low level of landings that were documented for the species [suggested] biological conditions had changed and that spiny lobster populations were at a new low normal,” says council staff summary. “Since landings have been much higher than anticipated, the review panel… determined that conditions for spiny lobster are likely better than they were during the 10-year period of low landings.” continue reading the story here 14:19

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in Jekyll Island, GA March 6-10, 2017

The public is invited to attend the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to be held at The Westin Jekyll Island, 110 Ocean Way, Jekyll Island, GA 31527, USA. Click here for details Webinar Registration: Listen Live, Click here 14:00

Controversy brewing over snapper-grouper Exempted Fishing Permit

A storm is brewing in the South Atlantic region, a storm of controversy over snapper-grouper fisheries access and allocation. A group of four commercial fishing businesses – the South Atlantic Commercial Fishing Collaborative – filed an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) application with the National Marine Fisheries Service on Feb. 6. If approved by NMFS, the EFP would allow a group of 25 snapper-grouper boats operated by the four businesses to harvest blueline tilefish, gag grouper, gray triggerfish, greater amberjack, vermilion snapper and species in the jacks complex for two years (2018-19) in a pilot program while being exempt from numerous fishing regulations. The generic name for such a fisheries management method is catch shares, which, according to NOAA Fisheries, is a program in which “a portion of the catch for a species is allocated to individual fishermen or groups. Each holder of a catch share must stop fishing when his/her specific share of the quota is reached.” But it is a concept the huge majority of saltwater fishermen – recreational fishermen and small commercial fishing operations – have proven to be vehemently opposed to. continue reading the story here 08:12

This is the story of the Casie Nicole a boat captained by Billie Joe Neesmith

On April 11, 1990, Nathan Neesmith, his brother Billy Joe Neesmith, his nephew Keith Wilkes, and his friend Franklin Brantley set off from McIntosh County pier in Georgia to go on a seven-day commercial fishing expedition. Their ship, Casie Nicole, had just recently been docked for maintenance. They took it to an uncharted reef off the coast of South Carolina. Early in the morning on April 12, their boat capsized and quickly took on water. They had to abandon the ship, so they boarded a raft. Nathan Neesmith left the other three men in the raft with some food and went off in a wooden box to go find help. He was rescued five days later, but the rest of the men were never found. The only things ever found were a sleeping bag and a life vest. To this day their fate is unknown. They were about 65 miles off shore, and Nathan said that he’d got up around three-thirty, four am in the morning, started the engine, and started driving to somewhere to go fishing. He noticed the boat was heavy with maneuvering, and it wasn’t going over the waves, it was kind of ploughing through them,,, continue reading the story here 22:33

2016 Annual Report of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Report to Our Stakeholders Robert E. Beal – On behalf of the Commission and the 15 Atlantic coastal states, I am pleased to present our 2016 Annual Report. The report fulfills our obligation to inform Congress on the Commission’s use of public funds, provides our stakeholders with a summary of activities and progress in carrying out our cooperative stewardship responsibilities, and reflects our Commissioners’ commitment to accountability and transparency in all they do to manage and rebuild fisheries under their care. We remain grateful to the Administration, Members of Congress, our governors and state legislators for their continued support. Many of our accomplishments would not have been possible without their trust and confidence. Read the report here 16:03

Spiny Lobster season in the Florida Keys: Not as strong, not a disaster

One month remains in the regular lobster season but many of the traps put out by the Florida Keys commercial fleet are back on the hill — meaning pulled ashore until next summer. “We’re bringing in about 235 traps now from 200 feet of water,” Conch Key commercial fisherman Gary Nichols said Tuesday. “This season has been kind of fairly good,” Nichols reported from aboard his 43-foot boat. “It’s not as good as the last couple of years and the market has been softer.” Tom Hill at Key Largo Fisheries agreed, “It hasn’t been a bad year, but it’s not as robust as it has been. I think we have had less production than in the past few seasons.”,, The Asian market for live Florida lobster, which buoyed the fleet after the economic recession, remains a critical component of the fishing economy but was not as profitable as in the past seven to eight years. continue reading the story here 10:17

National Marine Fisheries Service Policy Directive – Catch Share Policy

PURPOSE The purpose of this policy is to encourage well-designed catch share programs to help maintain or rebuild fisheries, and sustain fishermen, communities and vibrant working waterfronts, including the cultural and resource access traditions that have been part of this country since its founding.  DEFINITION “Catch share” is a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific portion of the total allowable fishery catch to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities. Each recipient of a catch share is directly accountable to stop fishing when its exclusive allocation is reached. The term includes specific programs defined in law such as “limited access privilege” (LAP) and “individual fishing quota” (IFQ) programs, and other exclusive allocative measures such as Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) that grant an exclusive privilege to Continue reading this here 15:50

Sebastian Inlet District to crack down on angry anglers defecating and spreading it on the rail to mark their territory

At Sebastian Inlet fishing pier, lines often cross. And tangled tackle ticks off fishermen so much, they often revert to territorial tactics, casting aspersions and sometimes other things at their angling adversaries, inlet officials and fishermen say. They hurl lead fishing weights, lures and other objects at folks fishing from boats. Or sometimes boaters are the primary aggressors.  Signs and video cameras haven’t tempered things much. Inlet officials say that in the past few years, the pier atmosphere has degraded into a state of constant territorial marking, as things just keep hitting the fan — and sometimes even the concrete pier and its cylindrical metal rails. “We’ve had reports of people defecating and spreading it on the rail to mark their territory so nobody will fish next to them,” said Martin Smithson, administrator for the Sebastian Inlet District. “There have been several citations for public urination.” Read the story here 08:14

AMSEA to hold two Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor Workshops in South Carolina in March

Alaska Marine Safety Education Association workshops meet the U. S. Coast Guard training requirements for drill conductors on documented commercial fishing vessels operating beyond the federal boundary line. On Thursday, March 9, a workshop will be conducted in Murrells Inlet from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Murrells Inlet Community Center, 4462 Murrells Inlet Road. A second workshop will be conducted on Saturday, March 11 in McClellanville at the McClellanville Town Office, 405 Pinckney Street. Instructor Michael Lawson will cover man-overboard recovery and firefighting, emergency position-indicating radio beacon stations, flares and maydays, emergency drills, helicopter rescue, life rafts and abandon ship procedures, personal floatation devices, immersion suits and cold-water survival skills. The workshop will include an “in-the-water” practice session for participants to practice survival skills. Interested mariners may register for the workshops online at www.amsea.org or call AMSEA at 907-747-3287. Link 07:15

Offshore drilling opponents re-gear for new round of battles

A little more than a month after seismic blast testing for oil and natural gas was stopped offshore of South Carolina, exploration companies are gearing up for a new try. A dozen anti-drilling advocates met Tuesday in Charleston to discuss expanding the opposition. They may look inland for more support in the vein of the massive coastal protest that in 2016 helped derail plans for testing and drilling. Frank Knapp, founder of the anti-drilling Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, said he has heard the exploration industry is planning to approach the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management about reversing a testing permit denial adopted during the last days of the Obama administration. Knapp’s group represents more than 35,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families from Maine to Florida. Continue reading the story here 17:58

Bully-net lobster fishermen can get new commercial status

A new Florida commercial lobster license for bully-netters will come with a “Respectful Bully Netting” outreach campaign. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission members on Feb. 8 approved creation of a new bully-net endorsement for people who have a commercial endorsement for lobster.“Conflicts between waterfront homeowners and bully-netters” was cited as one concern about expanding the commercial lobster industry to include the netting technique. The increased use of bully nets for commercial lobstering “allows opportunities for young or new fishers and preserves the culture of participation in the Keys commercial lobster fishery”. Continue reading the story here 14:45

North Pacific council director a possibility for Assistant Administrator position at NMFS replacing Eileen Sobeck

Chris Oliver, the executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for the past 16 years, didn’t ask for a consideration as the new assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service; rather, the most powerful fishing industry voices in the nation’s most profitable region asked. He doesn’t know if the new administration will offer it or if he’d want it if it did. Still, looking at his history, knowledge and reputation, he seems in many ways a natural fit. Oliver said when it became known that the current administrator, Eileen Sobeck, won’t be staying with the new administration, parts of the fishing universe aligned. In the North Pacific and elsewhere, catch share systems are a contentious issue; Oliver said in an interview he’s already had fisheries stakeholders from other regions probing for what his intent would be with their respective fisheries. Oliver’s answer sums up both his attitude and in part that of the new administration. “It’s not my call,” he said. “What makes sense in the North Pacific…may not make sense in New England, or in the Gulf of Mexico. Read the story here 10:47

Everglades National Park Superintendent suspends new fee after outcry

Following pushback from some local professional fishing guides, Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos has suspended a new rule that would have required a per person fee for vessels entering federal waters in Florida Bay. Late last month, a park email was circulated that informed a handful of Upper Keys guides that enforcement of an entrance fee for people on vessels would begin in April. This included customers aboard a commercial boat, recreational anglers on a personal boat and kayakers. The park’s general management plan, which became effective last year after over a decade in the making, said that vessels in the future could be charged a per person fee. It didn’t have a specific date, though. Last month was the first many became aware of the plan to enforce it.  Currently, an entrance fee is paid only by those coming to the park by land.. Read the story here 11:32

Coast Guard rescues 3 fishermen after vessel catches fire near St. Catherines Island, Ga.

The Coast Guard rescued three fishermen Tuesday after the fishing vessel they were on caught fire 1 mile east of St. Catherines Island, Georgia. Coast Guard Sector Charleston Command Center watchstanders received a call from a crew member aboard the fishing vessel Sea Puppy at 3:16 p.m. who stated their boat was on fire and taking on water. A Coast Guard Station Tybee Island 29-foot Response Boat – Small boat crew and an Air Station Savannah MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew launched at approximately 3:25 p.m. The Dolphin crew arrived on scene at 4:30 p.m., hoisted the fishermen and transported them to Air Station Savannah to awaiting EMS. No injuries were reported. Coast Guard pollution investigators arrived on scene, and the cause of the fire is under investigation. 19:17

Will Florida allow goliath grouper fishing?

State wildlife officials will discuss the fish’s fate when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meets Feb. 8-10 in Crystal River. There is no specific proposal yet to allow the goliath’s harvest. At Wednesday’s meeting, FWC staff will provide the commission a review of the biology and recently-completed study of the fish’s population. “This is a review and discussion on the history, biology and recent stock assessment,” Amanda Nalley, an FWC spokeswoman said by email. “FWC will be asking the Commission whether or not staff should pursue gathering further public input on potential management changes, including the possibility of allowing some kind of limited harvest.” Read the story here 10:57

White shrimp weighing in at 10-12 count per pound? In late January?

That is exactly how the 2016-17 commercial shrimping season in South Carolina state waters wound up earlier this week, at the end of January. The season typically closes by mid-January but excellent catches of jumbo shrimp by trawlers kept it open later. “I’ve had people tell me they’ve never seen big shrimp like this out there this time of year,” Mel Bell, Director of the Office of Fisheries Management for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, said on Thursday. “It’s been an unusual close to the season. It’s normally closed by mid-January, and if it’s a colder winter, maybe earlier. “We’ve never seen that phenomenon of those large shrimp offshore. I’ve talked to fishermen who have been in the industry for decades and they’ve never seen anything like that.” Read the story here 18:07

‘Phenomenal’ shrimp season still playing out in the Lowcountry

It’s the cold end of January and that means the end of commercial shrimping is..umm..maybe not even going to happen. It’s phenomenal, said Mel Bell, S.C. Department of Natural Resources fisheries management director. “This is the latest I’ve heard us close. The size they’re bringing in out there we’ve never seen before” this time of year, he said. Not only that, but “provisional” waters will remain open another week. Those are waters roughly beyond two miles out, between the nearshore state waters and federal waters even farther out. And federal waters don’t close at all unless it’s a bad winter. Lowcountry boats have been slaying them in those provisional and federal waters. “Definitely,” said Shem Creek shrimper Tommy Edwards, who has been pulling in shrimp so big they’re weighing out at 13 to the pound. “We’re doing better now than we were when the season was going strong. Right now we’re looking at shrimping all the way through February. We’re not going to close if conditions are right.” Read the story here 13:40

ASMFC Winter Meeting – January 30 – February 2, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia

Final Agenda, Click here For ease of access, all Board/Section meeting documents, with the exception of the Shad & River Herring Board materials and the submitted public comment portion of the Atlantic Menhaden Board materials, have been combined into two documents – Main Meeting Materials 1 and Main Meeting Materials 2. Main Meeting Materials 1 includes all boards/sections meeting on January 31 and Main Meeting Materials 2 are materials for the remainder of the week. Additionally, supplemental materials have been combined into document – Supplemental Materials. Links to individual board/committee materials can be found below. Board/Section meeting proceedings will be broadcast daily via webinar beginning at 8:00 a.m. on January 31st and continuing daily until the conclusion of the meeting (expected to be 3:00 p.m.) on Thursday February 2nd. The webinar will allow registrants to listen to board/section deliberations and view presentations and motions as they occur. Click here for access. 19:57

The struggle to preserve Charleston’s ‘working waterfront’

In McClellanville, longtime commercial fishing businessman Rutledge Leland is mulling retirement from Carolina Seafoods and talking to the town’s cadre of shrimpers and other fishing professionals about forming a co-op along Jeremy Creek. In Mount Pleasant, town officials stepped in to moderate an intensifying feud among residents, recreational boaters, commercial fishing interests and others over just what to do about Shem Creek. The town formed an ad hoc committee from among them. At issue is whether the working waterfront can be saved. As those two towns suggest, the answer might just vary from spot to spot. Read the story here 07:59

South Atlantic Catch Share plan will eliminate over 60 percent of the commercial snapper-grouper fishermen

Just a quick reminder that we need your help today to stop the “pilot” commercial snapper-grouper catch share program being proposed by two South Atlantic Fishery Management Council members: Vice Chair Charlie Phillips and Chris Conklin, both commercial snapper-grouper fleet owners and dealers. Incredibly, Chris, in a recent email about this pilot program that was publicly posted on a fishing forum, effectively said he wants to get rid of over 60 percent of commercial snapper-grouper fishermen, who he calls “part timers,” so the big snapper-grouper players will benefit. Most full time career commercial and for-hire fishermen in the South Atlantic make a living by participating in multiple fisheries, so they could be considered part timers in many fisheries. But they are full time career fishermen, of which snapper-grouper is just one vital income source. Read the article here 11:50

Port of Savannah leads in the export of shark fins

For the last three years the port of Savannah has been the U.S. leader in the export of shark fins, a legal but controversial trade item used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy in parts of Asia. Federal fisheries data show that although no shark fin was exported from Savannah in 2013, the trade here jumped in the following years from 18,444 pounds in 2014 to 25,765 pounds in 2015. That amounts to about $1.2 million in shark fins over the two years. Last year through November the export amounted to 19,171 pounds, valued at $559,845. In each case the shark fins were shipped to Hong Kong. Oceana is now advocating a nationwide ban on the shark fin trade. Not all shark lovers agree. Shark researcher Chris Fischer, a founder of Ocearch and a leader of its expeditions to catch and satellite tag great white sharks, said shutting down trade here will merely create a bigger opportunity for unmanaged fisheries elsewhere. Read the story here 12:33

81 False killer whales die off South Florida coast

81 false killer whales have died after stranding themselves off the South Florida coast. NOAA announced the grim news on Monday afternoon. NOAA initially reported that 95 false killer whales were stranded in South Florida. Then on Monday afternoon, NOAA Fish Southeast tweeted that 81 whales had died and also said the whales were at a remote location off of Hog Key in the Everglades. One whale was seen alive on Monday and 13 others are unaccounted for, NOAA Fish Southeast said on Twitter on Monday afternoon. The National Park Service has closed the area around the whale stranding location. The National Park Service is asking that aircraft not fly over the area and that boats stay away from the area. Read the rest here 15:14

Catch share threat is back

As we enter 2017, the biggest threat to commercial and recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic is back: private ownership of the snapper-grouper fishery through a catch share program. Fishery stakeholders have year after year overwhelmingly rejected any form of catch shares. Most recently, 97 percent of the comments on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s long-range snapper-grouper management plan opposed catch shares — a plan the council promised would be “stakeholder-driven.” Yet, SAFMC Vice Chair Charlie Phillips has revealed that he, SAFMC member Chris Conklin and former SAFMC member Jack Cox, all commercial snapper-grouper fleet owners and dealers, are leading an effort to get a voluntary “pilot” catch share program in place this year using an “Exempted Fishing Permit,” which is a back door way to avoid the normal fishery regulation approval process. In a recent article in the Charleston, SC Post & Courier, Vice Chair Phillips touts that the permit would allow them to catch all year.” The article also reveals that the Seafood Harvesters of America, which has been funded with over $300,000 from the radical Environmental Defense Fund, is supporting the EFP application. The Seafood Harvesters represent some of the biggest catch share owners in the nation. Read the post here  11:06

Feds Take Controversial Mid and South Atlantic Seismic Air Gun Testing Off Table

Federal officials announced on Friday a controversial plan to allow dangerous seismic air gun testing in a vast section off the mid-Atlantic coast including an area as close as 20 miles off the coast of Ocean City has been removed from consideration. With a proposal to lease a vast area totaling roughly three million acres off the mid-Atlantic coast to offshore drilling for oil and natural gas reserves already taken off the table last spring, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced on Friday a companion plan to open the same area to seismic airgun testing has been denied. Seismic airgun testing is used to determine what oil and natural gas reserves lie beneath the ocean floor. However, once the plan to allow offshore drilling off the mid-Atlantic coast was removed from consideration, at least for the next five years, BOEM officials determined there was no good reason to allow potentially dangerous seismic testing in the same areas off the mid-Atlantic coast including Ocean City and Assateague, for example. Read the story here 10:12

South Carolina Working Waterfront: Rural attitude, commercial fishing still embraced in McClellanville

McClellanville stands apart from other working waterfronts in South Carolina in a couple of important ways. Its geographic isolation has helped maintain a rural attitude, and commercial fishing remains the economic driver for the community. These days, the town that got its start as a summer resort for plantation owners has the least touristy feel of South Carolina coastal communities. The small commercial section of the Jeremy Creek waterfront is dominated by two commercial docks—at Carolina Seafood and Livingston’s Bulls Bay Seafood. A public boat landing with limited parking spaces gets crowded on weekends and during the public shrimp-baiting season in the fall, but most of those boats head into the Intracoastal Waterway and leave the working waterfront behind. Read the rest of the story here 12:06

South Atlantic Offshore drilling fight is still on

Despite a major victory in November, the fight against drilling for oil off South Carolina’s coast isn’t over yet. President Barack Obama used his executive power Tuesday to invoke a rarely used 1953 law to ban oil exploration indefinitely from parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, but South Carolina’s offshore waters inexplicably weren’t included. President Obama cited a number of deep offshore canyons, wellsprings of marine life, as reasons for moving to permanently protect offshore waters from the Chesapeake Bay northward. But similar, ecologically important structures also exist off our coast, such as the “Charleston Bump.” The bottom feature, 80-100 miles offshore, acts as a speed bump in the Gulf Stream and is believed to be important to about 35 fish species. For example, it is the only known spawning ground in U.S. waters where wreckfish occur in numbers large enough to support a fishery. Read the story here 08:41

Enviros, Fishing interests balk at Obama’s exclusion of S.C. coastlines from drilling ban

“We are extremely disappointed,” Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and co-founder of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, told The Post and Courier. Last week, Knapp’s organization, representing 35,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families, delivered a letter to the Obama administration asking for a ban on drilling and seismic testing. “Oil and gas exploration and development activities threaten the vibrant coastal environment that supports nearly 1.4 million jobs and contributes $95 billion to the annual gross domestic product, mainly through tourism, commercial fishing and recreation,” Knapp and fellow BAPAC members wrote. “Our currently thriving East Coast businesses are reliant upon healthy ocean ecosystems and are inextricably tied to clean, coastal waters.” The pleas appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. Read the rest here 11:42

Coral plan threatens fishing grounds

 The NEFMC is working with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to preserve deep-sea corals from the Canadian border to Virginia. Area lobstermen could lose valuable fishing grounds if a federal proposal to close four areas of Gulf of Maine waters comes to fruition. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) has drafted a plan that would close a span of 161 square miles offshore to commercial fishing in an effort to conserve deep-sea coral there. Two of those areas, Mount Desert Rock in Lobster Management Zone B and Outer Schoodic Ridge in Lobster Management Zone A, are preferred fishing grounds for local fishermen when lobster head further offshore in the winter. The other proposed offshore closure areas lie in Jordan Basin and Lindenkohl Knoll to the south.  Read the story here 09:34

Obama blocks drilling in Arctic, Atlantic oceans

President Obama on Tuesday formally blocked offshore oil and gas drilling in most of the Arctic Ocean, answering a call from environmentalists who say the government needs to do more to prevent drilling in environmentally sensitive areas of U.S.-controlled oceans. Obama is invoking a 1953 law governing the Outer Continental Shelf to block drilling in federal waters in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea and most of its Beaufort Sea. He also protected 21 underwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean from drilling, White House officials said Tuesday. Canada will block drilling in all of its Arctic Ocean acreage, a moratorium officials will review every five years, the White House said. Read the story here 17:02

How a diverse band of locals won Beaufort County’s biggest environmental battle

“It’s Official! Plans Announced,” screamed a banner headline in The Beaufort Gazette of Oct. 2, 1969. BASF, the international chemical giant based in Germany, announced it was going to build a $100 million petrochemical plant on Victoria Bluff near Bluffton. It would expand to an industrial complex with an investment as high as $400 million, the biggest manufacturing fish ever landed by the state of South Carolina, even for that era of New South boosterism. The political hierarchy of Beaufort County and Columbia was euphoric. It would cure the abject poverty in the county — where it was reported that children had worms, and adults were malnourished and illiterate.,,  The Capt. Dave shrimp trawler remains the lasting image of the fight. She chugged into Beaufort County history with a 777-mile, week-long trip from Hilton Head to Washington, D.C., in April 1970. The 43-foot boat was a symbol of a small band taking on an opponent the size of an aircraft carrier. It was a symbol of Lowcountry life and clean water. Its mission was to deliver petitions against the plant to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Walter J. “Wally” Hickel. Read the story here. 09:08

Plan for Dusky shark doesn’t please Oceana cons

The federal government isn’t going far enough with a plan to protect a threatened shark that lives off the East Coast and has been decimated by the fin trade, some conservationists argue. The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing changes to federal fishing rules with the goal of protecting dusky sharks, a large species that is down to about 20 percent of its 1970s population off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico because of commercial fishing for the species that’s now illegal off the U.S. Dusky sharks were long hunted for their meat and oil, as well as their fins, which are used to make soup in traditional Chinese cooking. The fisheries service is proposing a suite of new rules for recreational and commercial fishermen designed to protect the shark, which is sometimes still killed via accidental bycatch by fishermen seeking other species. But conservation group Oceana said the rules aren’t strict enough and leave the sharks vulnerable. Read the story here 11:29

Research reveals black gill kills shrimp

A disease that’s crippling the shrimp industry may be doing more damage than originally thought. Researchers in our region have made new findings about black gill disease, this as the industry is still rebounding from the worst shrimp harvest in Georgia history. The latest findings from scientists with the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is unsettling. It reveals black gill may continue to push the shrimp industry into the red. “We’ve observed in controlled laboratory situations, mortality events, death of shrimp, that could only be caused by them having black gill. We’ve removed all other predators, uh, we have control groups where they don’t die, so it’s not something else in the water, but the ones with the black gill are dying.” said Dr. Marc Frischer with the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Video, read the story here 08:58

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council not listening to fishermen

csf-logoDo you think fishery managers listen to fishermen? After last week’s South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting you have to wonder. A proposal to limit the number of charter and head boats that could fish in the South Atlantic was met with overwhelming opposition by fishermen. There were 169 written comments against the proposal and just 3 for it. Click here to see the comments. Yet, the SAFMC didn’t listen to fishermen and kill the proposal. Instead it voted 9 to 3 to develop a “white paper” to continue to explore charter and head boat limited entry options for the snapper-grouper fishery. Read the rest here 14:07

Charter fisherman catches kilo of cocaine off Miami coast

Miami fisherman Mark Quartiano takes pride in his ability to catch sharks, but on Wednesday he reeled in something else entirely: cocaine. He thinks the package had been in the water for a few weeks, as it had barnacles on it. Further inspection revealed (click for video) it to be a kilo of cocaine. “Lo and behold, it was one of those square grouper”, Quartiano joked to WPLG-TV. (click for uncensored reaction video)  Quartiano is described by Miami New Times as a “love-him-or-hate-him shark fisherman” who “delights in rankling conservationists”. Read the rest here 11:26

Marathon fisherman pinched for untagged lobster traps, bad bouy charges

fishbust-lobstertrapsA Marathon commercial fisherman faces more than 130 conservation counts after being charged with fishing illegal lobster traps. Franklin Garcia Jimenez, 40, was arrested before dawn Tuesday as part of a trap-tag case filed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers. Garcia is charged with “fishing more than 50 working, untagged traps,” agency information Officer Bobby Dube said. FWC Investigator Danielle Munkelt and Officer Adam Garrison also filed counts accusing Garcia of using buoys that were painted with the wrong colors and buoys that do not meet legal size requirements. All of the 136 counts are misdemeanors. Garcia posted a $68,000 bond and was released from the Monroe County jail Thursday. Read the rest here 20:45

Don’t bite on risky lure of ‘catch shares’

wolf-in-sheeps-clothing-scaled500-e1371562470325I can’t think of a more appropriate saying to use than “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” to describe the reality of what the Seafood Harvesters of America want to do with our offshore fisheries. The Post and Courier recently published an article and editorial that bought into the sheep’s clothing side. Year-round fishing and better fisheries data are touted. Who could be against that? But there’s a wolf: privatization of our fisheries through a scheme called “catch shares,” where fishermen and corporations are actually given ownership of our fisheries with shares that can be bought or sold like stock on Wall Street.  That’s the real reason for the Seafood Harvesters of America’s existence. They’re working hard to ensure commercial fishermen own our fisheries, and in this case it’s our snapper and grouper, starting with a pilot program that could be considered by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries next year. Read the op-ed here 08:02

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in Atlantic Beach NC December 5 – 9, 2016

south-atlantic-fishery-management-council-logoThe public is invited to attend the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to be held in Atlantic Beach NC at the DoubleTree by Hilton Atlantic Beach Oceanfront. Read the Meeting Agenda Click here, Briefing Book – June 2016 Council Meeting Click here Webinar Registration: Listen Live, Click here  15:10

Big changes in the air over little menhaden? – Hearings examine ecological value, catch allocation of forage fish species

menhadenThe Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates near-shore fishing from Maine to Florida — including the Chesapeake Bay — has invited public comment on several questions about future management of the menhaden fishery at hearings all along the coast. Sessions in the Bay watershed begin Monday, Dec. 5. The most important issue under consideration involves setting new “reference points” regulating the catch of menhaden that would account for their value to other fish and predators — not just their commercial importance. But the commission also is weighing whether to shake up how the total catch is distributed along the coast. Read the slanted story here Review Public information document for Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan For Atlantic Menhaden here  12:11

Hilton Head Fishing Co-Operative a notable piece of Lowcountry history

The phrase “life-changing” is probably over used — as well as underappreciated. Typically, when we hear this phrase, we expect to hear stories about life and death and survival and courage, and people overcoming life-threatening challenges. However, it is no exaggeration to say that all of these elements are woven into the little-known story of the Hilton Head Fishing Co-Operative, which had an enormous impact on the economy of Hilton Head Island, as well as the quality of life for many native islanders during the 1960s and ’70s. Before the co-operative, individual families relied on the waters surrounding Hilton Head as a means to sustain their way of life; it was the way families fed themselves. Looking forward to the day’s catch was no sport, because fishing provided the meals for the day. Breakfast might be shrimp and grits, lunch could be an oyster boil steamed with fresh corn from the fields, and dinner likely was rice along with the catch of the day. Interesting, well worth the read, Click here 09:05

“Operation Broken Glass” – Three Men Plead Guilty for Illegally Harvesting and Selling American Eels

elversThree individuals pleaded guilty in federal district court in Charleston, South Carolina, to trafficking more than $740,000 worth of juvenile American eels aka “elvers” or “glass eels,” in violation of the Lacey Act.  Harry Wertan, Jr., Mark Weihe and Jay James each pleaded guilty to selling or transporting elvers in interstate commerce, which they had harvested illegally, or knew had been harvested illegally, in South Carolina. The pleas were the result of “Operation Broken Glass,” a multi-jurisdiction U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigation into the illegal trafficking of American eels.  To date, the investigation has resulted in guilty pleas for ten individuals whose combined conduct resulted in the illegal trafficking of more than $2.6 million worth of elvers. Operation Broken Glass was conducted by the USFWS and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section in collaboration with 17 state and federal agency’s. Read the rest here 08:28

The Bahamas: No Chinese Commercial Fishing Allowed

prime-minister-of-the-bahamas-perry-christieSpeculation having been rife for several weeks about the remote possibility of large-scale fishing in Bahamian waters by Chinese fishing vessels. The Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, has put the matter to rest in a statement released on November 22, 2016, unequivocally stating: “We are not going to compromise and no discussion will lead to a conclusion that this government would have contemplated or agreed for that to happen.” Christie emphatically stated in reports in the Nassau Guardian and Tribune daily newspapers that no mass commercial fishing will take place under foreign ownership. Christie said commercial fishing is reserved only for Bahamians, that there are no fisheries negotiations with the Chinese. The Prime Minister reiterated his government’s policy of conserving the Bahamas’ fisheries and natural resources. Read the rest here 18:47

“Fire in the Water” – Book about history of commercial fishing in Florida published

Through firsthand accounts, “Fire in the Water” chronicles an exciting and unique slice of early Florida coastal history that might have otherwise been lost. It was written by Terry L. Howard and Donald E. Root, and was released by Adventure in Discovery, Jupiter, on Nov 7. Howard and Root will be at Vero Beach Book Center, 392 21st St. Vero Beach, on Nov 28 at 6 p.m. for a book signing. Using rare historical photos and firsthand accounts of five survivors, this book chronicles waterfront and commercial fishing life on Florida’s east coast and along the Indian River Lagoon. It centers on Cape Canaveral and Fort Pierce from early in the 20th century to the 1994 Florida net ban. It is filled with colorful sea stories and memories of earlier times. Howard and Root draw from their own commercial fishing experiences. Read the rest here 13:36

Boat captain arrested in lobster case

fwc-logoA Marathon commercial fisherman wanted by state wildlife officers for allegedly fishing for lobster with untagged traps turned himself in Thursday after returning from Cuba. Ricardo Hernandez, 52, faces 71 misdemeanor conservation violations. Earlier this month, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers issued arrest warrants for Hernandez and his mates after surveilling their fishing boat for two months, said FWC Officer Bobby Dube. When the warrants were issued, FWC officers discovered he was in Cuba. Mate Juan Miguel Exposito-Carralero, 46, was also charged with 71 misdemeanor counts. He was arrested last week. Hernandez returned from Cuba recently and turned himself in at the jail, said FWC Capt. David Dipre. The case marks a shift in how some poachers are reacting to the FWC as well as the Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association’s efforts to quelch trap robbing — they moved to fishing with untagged traps.  Read the rest here 09:13

Department of Interior’s final plan abandons oil drilling off Atlantic Coast

5d63ccd898b6bad3“I am pleased and relieved that the Department of Interior’s final plan abandons its earlier proposal to allow drilling in the Atlantic from Georgia to Virginia,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “That proposal was incredibly shortsighted, and would have threatened the ecology and economy, and public health all along the Atlantic coast, including our New Jersey coastline. New Jersey lawmakers of both parties mobilized to fight the original proposal, citing the threat to tourism industry that generates $43 billion annually and supports 500,000 jobs, and a fishing industry that adds $7.9 billion a year to the state’s economy, responsible for more than 50,000 jobs. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) urged President Barack Obama in a Senate floor speech Thursday to permanently put the Atlantic Ocean off limits to oil drilling, which he can do under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Read the rest here 08:42