New restrictions on catching snapper and grouper in federal waters have created an "economic maelstrom" for South Florida fishing professionals, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Wednesday on the floor of Congress.
Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who represents the Keys and part of Miami-Dade, cited Key West charter fisherman Andy Griffiths by name in her remarks on the floor of the U.S. House.
"For Keys recreational angler Andy Griffiths, the upcoming four-month grouper closure has resulted in a 90-percent loss of business for the 2010 fishing season," Ros-Lehtinen said.
"His season for 2010 will be only two months long. For the rest of the year his boats will sit on the dock, racking up insurance costs. [Charter] fishermen like Andy need economic relief."
"Present federal action to implement multiple fishing regulations will have a chilling effect on this historic and important [fishing] industry," Ros-Lehtinen said.
In addition to the already approved closed season on shallow-water grouper from January through April in federal waters off Florida, the congresswoman pointed to a proposal to ban fishing for several species of grouper in waters deeper than 240 feet, plus a wide-ranging closure on red snapper catches.
The slate of rules, triggered by federal law that requires federal managers to act to reduce fishing pressure on species believed to be overfished, "will force generations of Keys fishermen to walk away from their boats, in search of other forms of employment," Ros-Lehtinen said. "This is unacceptable."
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering new rules to close deepwater fishing as part of Amendments 17A, 17B, and 18 to the council's Snapper-Grouper Management Plan.
Written comments on the proposal will be accepted until 5 p.m. Wednesday, before the South Atlantic Council meets Dec. 6 through 11 in Atlantic Beach, N.C. Comments from public hearings, including a Key Largo session, will be reviewed at the council meeting.
To find out more, go to www.safmc.net .
Ban on sales
Effective Dec. 16, a new law will prohibit the sale of snapper and grouper taken from federal water under recreational bag limits.
The measure applies to charterboat crews, even if they have a state saltwater-products license to sell their catch. The ban does not apply to fish caught in state waters of Florida, but charterboats holding a federal snapper-grouper permit are covered by the sale ban.
Federal managers "are concerned that sales of snapper-grouper caught under the bag limits could account for a significant portion of the commercial quota," according to the council.
A similar ban for Gulf of Mexico catches has been in effect since 1996, council staff said.