The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) considered over 600 written comments and heard public testimony last week, before voting to send a letter to NOAA Fisheries expressing their concerns on an Exempted Fishery Permit (EFP) request to conduct research and evaluate pelagic longline catch rates in a portion of an area off the east coast of Florida currently closed to longline fishing. The majority of the comments received, including those from recreational fishing organizations, were in opposition to the permit, citing concerns about discards of recreational and commercially important species, impacts to protected resources, increased landings of dolphin fish, and other concerns. The Council will submit its formal recommendations and a copy of all comments received on the Exempted Fishery Permit to NOAA Fisheries, the agency responsible for making the final decision on issuance of the permit.
TBF submitted comments in opposition, as did its members. It is regrettable that the FMC did not specifically recommend against the EFP. Following last week’s meetings of the SAFMC and the NMFS Highly Migratory Species Advisory Council, no indication of a decision time frame has been announced by government officials.
TBF will continue to follow this issue and report on any updates.