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. The NMFS action is being advanced under the guise of “research.”
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 will:
(1) Protect overfished marlin, sailfish, swordfish, tunas, sharks, sea turtles and marine mammals from pelagic longline fishing.
(2) Improve species abundance to improve recreational fishing for thousands of anglers.
(3) Support thousands of jobs in the recreational fishing, boating and marine industries, which generate huge economic returns to coastal communities. 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 to pelagic longline fishing.