At the South Atlantic Council meeting earlier this month, NOAA announced that the exempted fishing permit (EFP), which would have allowed a catch share pilot program for six popular sportfish species, had been withdrawn – a victory for the South Atlantic angling industry and anglers nationwide. NMMA is supporting and applauds Keep Florida Fishing’s and Keep America Fishing’s efforts to block the EFP. There is still work to be done, and NMMA is calling on members to help Keep America Fishing in their advocacy efforts around another EFP application.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently received an EFP application to authorize a “research project” which could allow longline boats from one company exclusive permission to make over 3,000 sets of 750 hooks each within Florida’s East Coast Longline Closed Zone.
The zone was closed 16 years ago to protect juvenile swordfish and other species like billfish, sea turtles, and overfished shark species. Buoy gear, which replaced longlines, take no bycatch and have proven to be both useful in sustaining marine resources and compatible with recreational fishing. It is estimated that 5,499 undersized swordfish, 759 billfish and 6,135 sharks would be killed by longlines under this EFP.
Many recreational anglers know the closed zone as a conservation success story. Not only have swordfish bounced back in strong numbers but fishing for sailfish, yellowfin tuna, marlin, and other recreational species has been phenomenal.