If you have an idea about how the future of offshore bottom fishing can best be managed, whether your interest is hauling in black sea bass, red snapper or grouper, it would be a great idea to plan to attend one of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's upcoming "Community Port Meetings."
The meetings are part of the SAFMC's effort to develop a long-term vision for managing the snapper-grouper fishery and several have been planned in South Carolina over the next few weeks, including two in Charleston.
The first Charleston meeting is directed toward the commercial fishery, including the restaurant industry, and will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at The Ordinary, located at 544 King Street.
Recreational fishermen will get an opportunity to share their ideas at 6 p.m. Feb. 17 at Haddrell's Point Tackle in West Ashley (47 Windermere Blvd.).
Other South Carolina meetings are 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday at Capt. Dave's Dockside in Murrell's Inlet; 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton; and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at a Columbia location to be announced.
Those wanting to attend a meeting are asked to RSVP and those unable to attend offer written input through an online comment form on the council's website safmc.net.
Past hearings on snapper-grouper management have often boiled into heated disagreements. Capt. Mark Brown of the Teaser2 and a member of the SAFMC's snapper-grouper advisory panel said the purpose of the meeting is to get people to offer constructive solutions.
Two SAFMC staff members will join Brown in moderating the meetings. Discussions could range from fishery allocations to marine protected areas.
"The fact of the matter is that the fishery is in a lot better shape than perceived," Brown said. "On the other hand we do need management (of fisheries). There's not a fisherman on the ocean that won't tell you it needs to be managed. But it needs to be managed in a rational way with good logic."
Brown said the main objective is to make sure when the SAFMC considers ideas and options that it doesn't go in a direction that hurts fishermen rather than help them.
"I try to be as compassionate as I can with my voice, my voting whether it's commercial or recreational," Brown said. "I understand both sides of the coin. I try not to be blinded either way."