Promoting sustainable Gulf fisheries at the heart of new partnership
The Audubon Nature Institute's sustainable seafood program, known as the Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.), has forged a partnership with the recently formed Mississippi Commercial Fishermen Union (MSCFU) to create a more robust fishery and to foster community knowledge regarding sustainably managed Gulf seafood.
Comprised of local fishers dedicated to protecting the common interests of the Mississippi commercial fishing industry, the not-for-profit MSCFU will work alongside G.U.L.F.to promote commercial fisheries throughout Mississippi as well as along the northern Gulf of Mexico.
“MSCFU is a representative of the Commercial Shrimp Industry of Mississippi, and we look forward to working with G.U.L.F. and other special interest groups to ensure them the dedication our commercial fishermen have towards the industry,” said Frank Parker, a founding member of MSCFU and the shrimp king at this year’s Blessing of the Fleet in Biloxi.
Shrimp isn’t the only species that MSCFU concerns itself with – oysters, fish and crabs are also relevant to the varied interests present in the group. For its part, the Audubon Nature Institute’s G.U.L.F. initiative focuses on third-party certification, fishery improvement projects, and outreach and education to consumers, food service businesses and fishermen. The very inception of G.U.L.F. was spurred by a “need for a home-grown champion for Gulf seafood,” said the institute.
“We are so excited to be working with Mississippi Commercial Fishermen’s Union,” explained Ashford Rosenberg, Outreach Manager at G.U.L.F. “Often, sustainability is talked about at the retail and restaurant level and the fishermen get left out of the conversation. G.U.L.F. is happy to be working with an organization led by fishermen who are dedicated to sustaining their livelihoods and the Gulf of Mexico on which they rely.”
Already in effect, MSCFU is committing to being involved in – in conjunction with Audubon G.U.L.F. – fishery sustainability projects for Mississippi territorial waters and the Gulf of Mexico fishery as a whole. Moreover, both MSCFU and Audubon G.U.L.F. have signed a Participant Letter of Agreement for a Mississippi Shrimp Marine Advancement Plan (MAP), which will work to help in the progression of sustainability practices among Mississippi’s shrimp industry.
Stipulated within the Mississippi Shrimp MAP, commercial shrimpers and MSCFU members will be encouraged to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) and bycatch reduction devices (BRD) on all shrimping nets, said the institute. Shrimpers using skimmer trawls are also reminded of the current tow time limits (55 minutes from April to October and 75 minutes from November to March) and are encouraged to use “Tow the Time” window decals so all crew members on participating shrimping vessel will be aware of tow-time restrictions.
“Mississippi shrimp is a sustainable fishery and should be recognized as such,” concluded Rick Burris, Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resource (MDMR) Shrimp and Crab Bureau. “Mississippi fishermen do a good job of following the regulations set in place including TED requirements and applicable tow times. The MDMR Office of Marine Fisheries recently featured G.U.L.F.’s 'Tow the Time' campaign, federal TED regulations, and official TED Enforcement Boarding Form in the 2016 Mississippi Shrimp Newsletter, which was sent to all resident licensed commercial shrimp fishermen in the state. The MDMR’s Office of Marine Patrol also thoroughly enforces all related regulations and provides year-round courtesy TED inspections to assure proper compliance.”
This represents the first step in a long term MSCFU commitment to conserve, advance and promote the Gulf Coast's wonderful natural marine resources, the group said. More information about MSCFU can be found here: http://www.mscfu.org/