Angry anglers confront fisheries managers
Dozens of angry anglers, charter boat captains and commercial fishermen confronted federal regulators Wednesday during a public comment period on new bottom-fishing regulations and potential new restrictions for popular open-water species such as dolphin and wahoo.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council held the somewhat informal “scoping meeting” at a hotel in North Charleston. Anglers were invited to put their comments on the record for council members to consider before their next meeting in March.
Hot-button topics ranged from a widely expected temporary closure of the recreational black sea bass fishery to suggestions of a two-wahoo-per boat trip limit and the introduction of a 20-inch minimum size limit for dolphin off the Carolinas (Georgia and Florida already enforce this size limit on dolphin).
Many of the comments, which were made in front of SAFMC chairman David Cupka, hammered home a point that many government regulators readily concede: Nobody really knows how many fish are caught by recreational anglers, and these new laws are based on dubious estimations of fish landings.
SAFMC staffers at the meeting explained repeatedly that due to tougher congressional mandates to end overfishing, the SAFMC and other regional councils are forced to use “the best available information” to fashion new fishery management measures, even if that information is not entirely accurate or complete.
Here’s a sampling of scenes and comments from the meeting.