Dear Congressional Members,
I, along with The Billfish Foundation, thousands of anglers, captains, mates, boat owners, big game fishing clubs, fishing tournament directors, recreational fishing/boating/equipment manufacturing, sales, and service businesses, ask you to stop the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) from opening Closed Zones in the Gulf of Mexico and off the east coast of Florida and Charleston to commercial pelagic longline fishing for swordfish.
A win/win – A better option and one consistent with the goals of the January Executive Order, known by most as 30/30, is to credit Closed Zone waters to mitigating negative impacts to oceans and all marine resources from climate change. Continuing the current management strategy within the Closed Zones would make good ecological sense, for recreational fishing makes a very light imprint on the resources, and good economic sense to the region. Unfortunately, pelagic longline fishing is not sustainable, while buoy, green stick and rod and reel gears are sustainable.
The Zones were closed 20 years ago to protect overfished marlin, sailfish, juvenile swordfish, some sharks and tunas, plus marine mammals and sea turtles, whose populations are overfished due to pelagic longline fishing. Only swordfish have recovered leaving the other overfished species in need of continued Closed Zone protections. Commercial buoy gear is a sustainable fishing gear that should replace pelagic longline gear.
Retaining Closed Zones as currently managed and crediting the waters to mitigate Climate Change, as is the goal of the EX, will:
(1) provide a win/win opportunity to protect marine resources and help mitigate Climate Change;
(2) protect overfished marlin, sailfish, swordfish, tunas, sharks, sea turtles, marine mammals, sea birds and many more species and their marine habitat; and
(3) support thousands of jobs in the recreational fishing, boating, marine industries and tourism support industry. (Saltwater recreational fishing in the southeast and west south central (Gulf) contributes over $12 million in federal taxes, $8.5 million in state taxes, supports hundreds of thousands of jobs with $5 million in wages.)
I respectfully call upon you and the Secretary of Commerce’s Office to stop the NMFS from opening the established Closed Zones and instead credit them, as currently managed, to meet goals of the EO.