Category Archives: South Atlantic

Business Opposition Grows Stronger to Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling

Today we are delivering our clear message to Interior Secretary Zinke—no offshore oil exploration and drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. With the addition of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce this week, BAPAC represents over 41,000 businesses and over 500,000 commercial fishing families opposing offshore exploration and drilling for oil in the Atlantic. We are building a green wall—business by business—to protect our vibrant tourism, recreation and commercial fishing economy that would be seriously threatened by the marine-life devastation of seimic airgun blasting and the inevitable destructive leaks, spills and industrialization that comes with drilling. We are not the Gulf Coast nor are we envious of the industrialization of the Gulf Coast. Their economy is oil. Ours is tourism, recreation and commercial fishing. The two economies are incompatible. click here to read the story 14:51

South Carolina: 30th on the 30th – Blessing of the Fleet marks start of shrimp season

The 30th annual Blessing of the Fleet will be held April 30 with an anticipated fleet of 13 boats. Continuing the tradition began by the Magwood family, who started the festival in 1988, every year the proceeds from the festival are donated to local nonprofit organizations. The Town of Mount Pleasant has chosen the Charleston Port and Seafarers’ Society and East Cooper Meals on Wheels to receive the net proceeds of the 30th annual Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival. Meet the captains –  click here to read the rest and view the images 15:28

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