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Walt Stearns

Fish Traps Coming Back

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We all need to take a hard look at this.

 

It appears that commercial fishing lobbyist Bob Spaeth, Southern Offshore Fishing Association is maneuvering the Gulf Council to endorse the return of fish traps in the Gulf of Mexico. This, coming years after the long battle to have them banned from US waters in both the Gulf and South Atlantic EEZs.

 

Fish traps are without a doubt not only the most controversial gear type ever permitted in the snapper/grouper fishery of the Southeast US, but also the most destructive.

 

To get an understanding of the damage done by fish traps read this by highly respected and experienced fishery management expert Dr. Russell Nelson - http://www.seawatch.org/bibliography/nelsonpaper.php

 

The state of Florida banned fish traps in state waters in 1980, yet it took the NMFS over a quarter of a century (not until Feb. 2007) to finally ban the gear in the Gulf of Mexico. Bermuda also recognized fish trapping as an unsustainable method of harvest and banned their use years ago.

 

Unfortunately, fish trapping is so deeply entrenched in the culture of the Caribbean that many still view it as an acceptable method of harvesting reef fish. In every Island Nation – Haiti, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, St. Maartin, etc., etc., that actively uses fish traps the presence of bottom fish larger than my hand is nearly non existent.

 

One of the worst assumptions is that the fisherman simply releases the fish they don’t want, like angelfish, grunts, etc., or can’t legally take like undersize snapper and groupers once a trap is brought to the surface. Not true. Almost nothing survives with a swim bladder (bony fish) after being brought up from depth rapidly. It’s common practice among trappers to cut up this by catch, legal or otherwise and use it for bait.

 

To see what I am talking about watch this video - Explosive Decompression in Fish Traps - http://www.vimeo.com/7374205 or here

 

Now it appears the conservation groups Ocean Conservancy, Oceana and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) are willing to consider throwing reef fish under the bus to do what they believe will save sea turtles by sitting down with the Gulf Council and at least two commercial fishing lobby organizations to re-consider fish traps as allowable gear to be included in Amendment 32.

 

This meeting will be taking place Dec 15th, 2009, 10 AM-4 PM at the Florida Wildlife Research Institute, 100 8th Avenue SE, St., Petersburg, 3rd floor conference room.

 

Currently this amendment is in the scoping process in order to get some public

feedback before the February Gulf Council meeting in Tampa, Florida.

 

According to Elizabeth (Libby) Fetherston, Southeast Fish Program Manager for the Ocean Conservancy, “We are trying to engage the stakeholder community in a productive dialogue about the issues with this gear type and giving the industry an opportunity to discuss trap evolution and if some of the advancements adequately mitigate the concerns that led to the gear's prohibition in the first place.”

 

Apparently Ocean Conservancy is unclear of it’s own Mission and even some of the “Issues” they are fighting against.

 

The very notion of bringing fish traps back into practice in US waters is highly irresponsible and unconscionable, but some believe that it will cut down on the use of long lines, which do kill sea turtles. However, most commercial fishermen will not be replacing their long line gear for fish traps, they will use both as long as they can get away with it.

 

The real root of the problem is that the ITQ – Individual Transferable Quota mess created by the Gulf Council has basically eliminated all of the smaller more traditional fishing methods, like bandit rigs (a far less destructive form of commercial fishing than nets, long lines and fish traps) and turned the fishery over to those that did the most damage (fish trappers and long liners). To add insult to injury, if the smaller operators want to acquire additional shares they have to buy them from the same individuals who forced them out of business years ago, again, the fish trappers and long liners. The result is the users of the most destructive gear types have been awarded higher ITQ shares and to catch this quota the long liners now want to convert to fish trapping so as to be able to fish more destructively and with less restrictions!

 

Believe me friends, if this gets passed in the Gulf, it won’t stop there. Before we know it fish traps will be back in action all over the US Coast and bottom fish stocks, including both food fish and ornamental species, will once again plunge to disastrously low levels.....like the islands of the Caribbean.

 

To express your concerns Contact:

 

Elizabeth Fetherston - Ocean Conservancy

Manager, Fish Conservation, Southeast

E-mail: efetherston@oceanconservancy.org or ph 727-369-6615

 

Vicki Cornish, Ocean Conservancy

Director, Marine Wildlife Policy

E-mail: vcornish@oceanconservancy.org or ph 202-351-0452

 

Dave Allison, Oceana

E-mail: dallison@oceana.org or ph 202-467-1945

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WorkshoponFishTrapsintheGMXReefFishFishery.pdf

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Here is a link to a story on the meeting with the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana and Southern Offshore Fishing Association I attended on Fish Traps held last Tuesday (Dec. 15th, 2009) in St. Pete, Florida. http://www.floridasportsman.com/casts/091217/index.html

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This is what is called a pot fishery in Alaska and is used for some fish such as cod with quite a bit of success. Less wastage compared to long-lining or trawling. There were fish traps in Alaska for salmon b4 1959 that all but wiped out some runs and were part of the impetus for statehood.

E.g., see:

http://www.akhistorycourse.org/articles/ar...e.php?artID=137

scroll down to salmon politics

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Hi Tom, I am bit familiar with Alaska's fisheries practices and management, it that the comparisons between them and the Gulf Mexico are two distinct animals with Alaska doing the right thing far ahead of the Gulf.

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Edited by Walt Stearns

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I just wanted to pass on the latest response from the Ocean Conservancy which they went on record at the Tampa Amendment 32 meeting that "We do not support the proposal to reintroduce fish traps as an allowable gear into the reef fish fishery. Design alone cannot mitigate the fundamental enforcement, bycatch, habitat and wildlife entanglement issues with trap gear that led to its prohibition in Reef Fish Amendment 14. The history of this fishing gear in the reef fish fishery reveals some overwhelmingly negative side effects that might accompany its restoration as an allowable gear, and it seems prudent to have a firm position of prohibiting new (or reintroduction of old) gears from the fishery until they can demonstrate performance improvement over existing gear and methods. This is certainly not the case with the traps that were common in the 1990’s and there is little-to-no testing or literature to suggest a newer version of the trap would perform better. In the absence of supporting evidence, one must assume the issues with traps remain and we therefore do not support the reintroduction of fish traps as an allowable gear."

 

This is good news, but the issue is not over yet.

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This is really good news

 

Just like anything with a really foul smell, the proposal to re-introduce fish traps in the Gulf of Mexico by the Southern Offshore Fishing Association as viable alternative to longline gear has been thrown out.

 

Yesterday, Thursday Febuary 4th, 2010, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to end the misguided effort to reintroduce destructive gear.

 

This coming after executive director of the Southern Offshore Fishing Association Bob Spaeth and Tom Haugen tried to persuade both members of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, Gulf Fishermen’s Association, and a contingent of conservation groups and fisheries management veterans who had fought to banish the destructive gear from the Florida Keys and Gulf back in the 1990s that their “new type of trap” would reduce or even eliminate the problems caused by previous types of traps back in December. Most of us attending didn’t buy it.

 

Although the meeting was intended to be a vetting process initiated by environmental groups like the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana and Environmental Defense Fund with commercial longliners to explore the use of fish traps as a trade-off for the removal of equally destructive longline gear which is killing excessive numbers of threatened loggerhead sea turtles was quickly discovered to be nearly as destructive as fishing with dynamite.

 

As the information on their destructiveness came to light, Ocean Conservancy quickly moved their position to oppose the use of the traps while the Environmental Defense Fund stood in support of several commercial fishing organizations such as the Southern Offshore Fishing Association, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance and the Gulf Fishermen’s Association continued to press for the use of fish traps.

 

“Substituting one harmful gear for another harmful gear that has already been banned in U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic is completely unacceptable,” said Russell Nelson, CCA’s Gulf Fisheries consultant. “Dr. Roy Crabtree, NOAA regional administrator, noted enforcement officers’ testimony on the extreme difficulty of enforcing any regulations on fish traps and stated that those concerns were very legitimate factors in the Council’s decision.”

 

So it is to say with great pride that the fish trap issue has died a quick death this week with the Gulf Council doing the right thing in slamming the door on this ill-conceived effort unanimously removing it from Amendment 32 to the gag/red grouper management plan that is going forward this year.

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Wow!!! This is great news! And may not have happened without all the work that you, Bill and Don have done to show OC and others involved about the destruction caused by fish traps.

 

Thanks for sharing this info.

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This is really good news

 

Just like anything with a really foul smell, the proposal to re-introduce fish traps in the Gulf of Mexico by the Southern Offshore Fishing Association as viable alternative to longline gear has been thrown out.

 

 

the proposal to re-introduce fish traps in the Gulf of Mexico by the Southern Offshore Fishing Association as viable alternative to longline gear has been thrown out.

 

Excellent!

Edited by WanderingBob

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Congratulations due to Walt and _all_ those others involved in the action against this.

 

Paul C

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