My view on the proposal to open the closed zone to experimental long line fishing.
Keeping an open mind and struggling to understand the thought process behind this opening is where I'm at.
After viewing the CNN film segment starring the individuals applying for this longline opening I am baffled. The wholsale fish company and lead scientist for this new experiment not only admit that buoy fishing for swordfish is the way of the future but admit outright that longline fishing yields bycatch, undersized discarded dead swordfish, sea turtles and other mammal interaction. These individuals have gone so far as to travel to other countries to teach this clean environmentally conscious commercial buoy method. They stated that long line fishing needed a new face like the heavily monitored buoy gear which has proved to be a clean fishery.
Now these same individuals want to want to set longline gear in the closed zone? It makes no sense. Even after making changes to some of their long line gear type the bycatch, turtle catch, mortality of undersized swordfish and mammal interaction is guaranteed.
So why would they do this? The answer is money. The project will be funded through a grant and by the fish wholesaler. The wholesaler reaps the rewards of his catch in the closed zone which just happens to be located close to his headquarters and the scientist gets funded by possibly both the grant and the fish wholesaler. I am all for people making a living but not at the expense of our future.
The applicants for this experiment seem to believe that due to the location of this closed area there will be no effect on recreational and buoy gear anglers to the north or south of this area. The experimental zone located to our north means nothing to a highly migratory fish which swims north and south through the zone. The thought process of these applicants that fishing 100 miles to our north will have no effect on our fisheries is so far off base. Being a fishermen connected worldwide I can tell you that the push of a migratory fish is regimented and is only swayed by bait, current, reproduction and time. Fishing 4,500 hooks every night for a possible 3 years in this closed zone which is the plan will provide great catches or failure based on the migratory cycle of the swordfish.
At this time the commercial longline fleets have diminished due to heavy regulations and restrictions. Our own government has made it so difficult for these guys to make a living fishing that the dream of running a longline boat in the US is no more. The existing longline skippers many who are friends of mine are aging men trying to find a way out by selling there boats and permits and they have been doing so for years. The longline fishery is a dying breed not to be replaced by future family.
If we allow this fishing in the closed zone and the catches are good then how is success judged? Our swordfish quota will never be caught or impacted due to these boats fishing. Furthermore, guys will not invest in permits, boats and gear with so many current restrictions. Good fishing or bad fishing in this closed treasure chest area and the possible extension of this experiment up to three years due to good fishing only insures this:
The one wholesaler and his fleet will prosper.
The scientist will pay his bills for the length of the study.
The clean buoy gear fishery and recreational fisheries north and south of this area will decline. The huge economic impact of recreational fishing which dwarfs modern day commercial fishing will suffer.
The mammals, turtles, dead discarded undersized swordfish and all other bycatch will will be lost forever.
Fishing this closed zone is a losing proposition on a grand scale regardless of what these boats catch.
My suggestion is to keep this area closed for the reasons you closed it in the first place. As for science and research grant an applicant the ability do a study on an already successful commercial buoy fishery as one has not been done since its inception. This will give you a clean assessment of the fishery as long as it is done correctly over time.
Whomever is reading this I truly want you to know that I keep an open mind when it comes to management and regulation. I believe I considered all aspects of this proposal and am educated enough on the topic to make an accurate assessment.
The sustainability of our fishery is my concern today and for the future.
Southeast Swordfish Club