Electronic monitoring grant a ‘new day in fishery management’
A new USD 2.25 million (EUR 1.99 billion) grant to help get electronic monitoring devices on charter boats in the Gulf of Mexico has a broader implication on U.S. fishery management.
“This is a new day in fishery management,” Harlon Pearce, Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) board president and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council member, told SeafoodSource. “This will help develop real time-data for the charter boats, and we already have data on the commercial side. It is going to help all fisheries in the Gulf and fisheries management as a whole.”
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded the grant to GSI founding member CLS America, which provides satellite electronic monitoring for boats. The landmark project aims to engage the fishing industry, federal and state managers and scientists from across the region to generate real-time, high-quality recreational fishing data, especially for Gulf red snapper, according to GSI.
With the grant and the recently passed Amendment 41, more than 70 percent of the fish in the Gulf will be accounted for daily, according to Pearce. Thanks to the data that will be collected from 350 charter boats along with commercial data, “the citizens of this country who own the fishery will have better access and a better understanding of what is going on,” Pearce said.
The grant comes on the heels of the passage of H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week, the bill aims to give regional fishery management organizations the tools for greater efficiency, say proponents. Opponents of the bill say H.R. 1335 weakens the United States’ primary marine fishery management regime, considered by many to be a model for success in promoting sustainable practices and ending overfishing.
The management of the commercial Gulf red snapper commercial fishery has also been controversial over the years, with closures for several months at a time due to the Federal government’s lack of reliable data, according to opponents.
“The federal government’s failure to properly oversee red snapper stocks has a harmful impact on fishermen and our economy, which is why it is critical to use new technology that can improve the management of the fishery,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “This important grant provision that I included in the fiscal year 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill will allow real-time electronic reporting of red snapper for charter boats in the Gulf for the first time.”
The commercial Gulf snapper fishery faced upheaval again in March when five state agencies — Texas Parks & Wildlife, Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources-Marine Resources Division — proposed that they should coordinate red snapper fishery management through a new, independent body called the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority (GSRSMA).
However, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources voted against the proposal in early May.