No decision on new offshore bottom fishing limits in the Southeast

Federal regulators want more information before deciding whether to put more offshore fishing grounds off-limits in the Southeast.

A committee of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council put off any recommendation whether to expand Marine Protected Areas from 785 square miles to as much as 1,093 miles or more, a move that could have taken away from anglers prime spots on the Continental Shelf such as Georgetown Hole and the Edisto Banks off Charleston.

The committee voted to ask staff for more information, such as how well current MPAs and law enforcement efforts are working. The full board will vote on that recommendation Thursday or Friday, but at least most of the council members sit on the committee.

The decision reflected concerns raised by commercial and recreational anglers that studies had not been done since the current MPAs were implemented in 2009.

No action on the proposed new areas would be expected before a December meeting.

“All options are still on the table,” said Mel Bell, council member and S.C. Department of Natural Resources fisheries office director.

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