charter fisherman's Association

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the Charter for Hire industry, and to ensure long-term sustainability of our fisheries.

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  • 20 Feb 2012 7:59 AM | Anonymous

    "Fishermen drowning in regulations" and "Managing fisheries is an inexact science" are probably the two understatements of the decade. My plight is exactly the same as all the charter boat/head boat owners in the Gulf of Mexico (from Key West to Brownsville, Texas) that fish for a living.

    Past articles in The Destin Log articulate how we fishermen and the fish are being managed. It also brings home the same shared frustrations of dealing with over-regulation without regard to the "human component" of the resource (i.e. shortened seasons, crushingly low bag limits, high fuel cost and the worst economy since the Great Depression).

    Like other captains, the current regulatory environment has taken my 40-year-old charter fishing business from being a viable year-round profitable operation to being barely a part-time job full of uncertainty. For lack of a better word it appears the whole system of managing fish is "broke" undefined or is it?

    It is hard to find anyone that disputes that the red snapper fishery seems in tip-top shape and is over regulated. The question that many of us would like addressed is can we find a way out of this derby style fishing system that is not sustainable and move toward finding one that is?

    I believe the answer is yes. How do we do this you ask?

    Start by thinking outside the box. Clearly, the old way of doing business is broken and unsustainable. You have a finite resource being pursued by a growing number of people who like to catch fish. So what do we do about it?

    All it would take is giving the fishermen involved the opportunity to explore a separate fishery management plan. It's the choice of giving charter fishermen like me that have a lifetime invested in the fishing industry the ability to decide when and how we want to fish. A “days at sea” program.

    Here is an example using the current bag limits for reef fish and a 48-day season that starts June 1 and ends July 19.

    Under the current system of management, it's a derby mentality. The clock starts at midnight June 1 and you make as many trips as humanly possible until the clock strikes midnight July 19. End of story.

    This is a dangerous way to operate and it promotes overfishing. If you have a catastrophic engine failure or bad weather, even worse get sick yourself, it doesn't matter because it's a derby that we are locked into.

    Now what if we had a say in when we fished? A “days at sea” program would have the same bag limits, and same number of days, just the ability work with our customers and go back to planning a day of fishing.

    We do not have that now. Not even close. Under today’s regulations we aren't even allowed to keep red snapper, gag grouper and amberjack on the same trip.

    It just doesn't make sense does it? A biologist might have to estimate how many fish live in the sea. They should not have to guess at how many fish are in my fish box.

    Every one knows from the top down that the old status quo system of counting fish is outdated, broken and never did measure up from the beginning. That's old news, but the good news is we now have cell phones, laptops and iPads, which are just some of the tools on hand to get real time data to the different government agencies that can use that information to make sound scientific decisions for our futures.

    The better the science is, the better the decisions undefined which is a definitive goal for many of us in the charter fishing industry. If the government insists on counting our fish, we must insist they do it correctly.

    We need to explore every possible option that gives back to each stakeholder a sound science-based viable fishery management plan. A "days at sea" program may not be the perfect solution, but at least it gives us flexibility for our businesses that we don't have now.

    Personally, I would like to bring value back to our fishing business and continue to offer fishing opportunities to the public in a safe and professional manner.

    Capt. Billy Archer

    F/V Seminole Wind

    A 3rd generation fisherman from Panama City

  • 06 Feb 2012 8:58 PM | Michael Jennings (Administrator)

    By.Captain Shane Cantrell , Galveston Texas

    Greetings from Mobile, Alabama at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Meeting. We have had the pleasure this week to work with fishermen and fishery management officials as we continue an effort to improve our nations' fisheries through sustainable management practices developed by all user groups involved. It's been a relatively quiet week, but there are some crucial decisions coming up at the next meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas this April. Among the highlights of the week were an update on the Grey Triggerfish population, moving forward on the proposed Greater Amberjack regulations, and a step towards adding artificial reefs as an Essential Fish Habitat. The update on Grey Triggerfish revealed a concern that the population is declining, and will possibly be closed in the near future. Further exploration should reveal more insight as to why the population is decreasing. There were suggestions made by several fisherman during public testimony that Red Snapper predation may be a source of this decline.

    Possibly the most important of the topics discussed for our industry was with Greater Amberjack. The council entertained possibilities of increasing the size limit and changing the season. After much debate among council members and input during public testimony, the amendment was moved forward and will recieve final action in April. The concern by fishermen as well as some council members is that by raising the size limit and adjusting the season we will be disregarding our current plan after only one year. The largest concern with respect to size limit is that although from a biological standpoint, 34 inches is the best for the stock. The increase in discard mortality to catch fish of that size will be very high while at the same time reaching the total allowable catch faster as larger fish are being targeted. The proposed seasonal closure in March, April, and May does not offer flexibility to any recreational fishermen any prized species to target outside of the expected Red Snapper season. This will drastically cut the number of fishing days of all recreational fisherman and essentially cripple charter guides already hurting from a very short Red Snapper season.

    There is also work being done to attempt to add artificial reefs to the list of essential fish habitats, but this possibility will be further explored in April after reviewing the current language of the EFH definition. The actions taken and items discussed in Mobile this week set the stage for some possibly monumental decisions coming out of the meeting in April with regards to the charter for hire industry and recreational fishermen.

    The biggest and most heated topic will be a scoping document addressing the possable development of a separate fishery management plan for each user group in recreational fisheries, specifically designed for the charter boat industry and another for the private boat fishing sector. This would essentially be giving recreational and charter fishermen the ability to create a flexible, accountable fishery management plan that allows more access to the fishery for the American public. Adding the final action on Greater Amberjack, possibly making artificial reef an essential fish habitat, and the announcement of the federal Red Snapoer season coming in between make for a very packed agenda effecting recreational fishermen across the Gulf of Mexico. For more information about Fishin Addiction Charters and the Charter Fisherman's Association visit www.charterfisherman.org

  • 06 Feb 2012 5:08 AM | Michael Jennings (Administrator)
    Published : Wednesday, 01 Feb 2012, 9:39 PM CST

    MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Tons of fisherman and charter boat captain’s spoke their minds at a public forum to discuss possible changes to the 2012 red snapper season.

    NOAA is considering cutting the season short. Last year it was 48 days, now its talking about making it 40.

    Dr. Roy Crabtree with NOAA says last year too many fish were caught and now there us a need to cut back to control the population.

    "Even though the quotas are being increased each year, the catch rates are going up every year and trips tend to go up a little bit, fish are getting bigger and the increases in the quota aren't keeping up with the increased catch rate,” said Crabtree.

    Charter Boat Captain Scott Hickman says it’s not about the time; it’s about the fish.

    One thing he suggests is giving each person a certain number of days they can use whenever they want.


    In this case he wouldn't mind having fewer than 40 days.

    "If we had the flexibility of going to and doing it when we wanted to and we were accountable and they knew we were reporting those fish, we would be able to use it and would benefit our business,” Hickman said.

    The problem is accountability. Hickman said the way data is collected now wouldn't work.


    Hickman and charter boat captain Mike Jennings are part of a Pilot program out of Texas.
    It uses an iPad or iPhone application called "iSnapper."

    Before even leaving the dock the captain enters in what they are fishing for, where they are fishing and how many anglers are on board. Then you fill in the catches.

    "Hit submit trip and as soon as it receives a 3G signal it downloads all of that information to Texas A&M Corpus Christi and they have the information of what I caught real time before my boat even arrives at the dock,” Jennings said.

    Jennings said an app like this would give the captains and officials real time data, about the entire catch as the season progresses.

    NOAA officials said it is looking at ways to better calculate the Red Snapper population. It is hoping for a change by 2013.

    "Many of the council members are very frustrated, we feel like our hands are tied, but because of the way the law is written, we're stuck with this system and patience I guess is the only thing we can hope for,” Crabtree said

    Here is a link to the actual News video

    http://www.fox10tv.com/dpp/news/local_news/mobile_county/concerns-over-shortened-snapper-season

  • 26 Jan 2012 11:42 PM | Michael Jennings (Administrator)

    By BILLY ARCHER, Panama City Fl.

    “Fishermen drowning in regulations” and “Managing fishery an inexact science” (Jan. 23) are probably the two understatements of the decade.

    My plight is exactly the same as all the charter boat/head boat owners in the Gulf of Mexico (from Key West to Brownsville, Texas) who fish for a living. The articles articulate how fishermen and fish are being managed. It also brings home the same shared frustrations of dealing with overregulation without regard to the “human component” of the resource (i.e., shortened seasons, crushingly low bag limits, high fuel costs and the worst economy since the Great Depression).

    Like the other captains in this article, the current regulatory environment has taken my 40-year-old charter fishing business from being a viable year-round profitable operation to being barely a part-time job full of uncertainty. For lack of a better word, it appears the whole system of managing fish is “broke.” Or is it?

    It is hard to find anyone who disputes that the red snapper fishery seems in tip-top shape and overregulated. The question that many of us would like addressed is, can we find a way out of this derby-style fishing system that is not sustainable and move toward finding one that is? I believe the answer is yes.

    Clearly, the old way of doing business is broken and unsustainable. You have a finite resource being pursued by a growing number of people who like to catch fish. Give the fishermen involved the opportunity to explore a separate fishery management plan. It’s the choice of giving charter fisherman like me the ability to decide when and how we want to fish undefined a “days at sea” program.

    Here is an example using the current bag limits for reef fish and a 48-day-season that starts June 1 and ends July 19. Under the current system of management, it’s a derby mentality. The clock starts at midnight June 1 and you make as many trips as humanly possible until the clock strikes midnight July 19. End of story. This is a dangerous way to operate and it promotes overfishing. If you have a catastrophic engine failure or bad weather, or even worse get sick yourself, it doesn’t matter because it’s a derby that we are locked into.

    What if we had a say in when we fished? How about a flexible alternative to the derby style of fishing? A “days at sea” program would have the same bag limits and same number of days, just the ability work with our customers and go back to planning a day of fishing during the time of their, and our, choosing.

    We do not have that now, not even close. Under today’s regulations we aren’t even allowed to keep red snapper, gag grouper and amberjack on the same trip. The only thing worse than that would be a closure. Most fishermen did not realize how close we came to that. If Florida had kept state waters open to gag grouper fishing in spring 2011, there would have been zero harvest of gag grouper both commercially or recreationally in federal waters anywhere after the state gag season opened in the Gulf. We are now dangerously close to that same scenario for red snapper. I’m sure some folks are thinking that it would be impossible to have grouper, amberjack and red snapper all closed.

    I’m simply stating a fact that rules are being proposed that say when a sector overfishes its allocation, it will have to “payback” by law that amount from the following year’s catch. Here’s how that would work for red snapper.

    Let’s say we get 10 fish for the 2012 red snapper season, but by accident we catch and keep 14. That’s 40 percent over harvest, so in 2013 we have to reduce our catch of red snapper by 40 percent. There is no way around it. If you are fishing for fun that might not be a big deal, but if you are fishing for red snapper as a means to pay your bills, it’s obviously your worst nightmare.

    There are other measures being considered as well, but the bottom line is none of them mean more fishing days for anyone, and all of them are bad for the fishing industry.

    It just doesn’t make sense. A biologist might have to estimate how many fish live in the sea? They should not have to guess how many fish are in my fish box. Everyone knows from the top down that the old status quo system of counting fish is outdated, broken and never did measure up from the beginning. That’s old news.

    The good news is we now have cell phones, laptops and iPads, which are just some of the tools to get real-time data to the different government agencies that can use that information to make sound scientific decisions for our futures. The better the science is, the better the decisions, which is a definitive goal for many of us in the charter fishing industry. If the government insists on counting our fish, we must insist they do it correctly. Then the fishing industry can start enjoying the benefits to these sacrifices that have been made in rebuilding these fish stocks. Yes, it can work.

    I’m not alone with these thoughts. There are hundreds of fishermen, boat owners and the like from every coastal state along the Gulf that want the chance to explore other options so we can avoid closures, not have to worry about payback, and help the science by collecting better data. They want options that will continue to rebuild our fish stocks, ensuring healthy fisheries for generations to come. We need to explore every possible option that gives back to each stakeholder a sound, science-based, viable fishery management plan.

    A “days at sea” program might not be the perfect solution, but at least it gives us flexibility for our businesses that we don’t have now. Personally, I would like to bring value back to our fishing business and continue to offer fishing opportunities to the public in a safe and professional manner.

     

    Billy Archer, a third-generation fisherman, is captain of the Seminole Wind.

     

  • 24 Jan 2012 9:41 AM | Anonymous

    Here is the link to the Gulf Council Meeting Agenda for the January meeting in Mobile, Alabama.

    http://www.gulfcouncil.org/council_meetings/agenda/Council%20Agenda%20-%2001-12.pdf

  • 17 Jan 2012 8:36 AM | Anonymous

    The January Gulf Council Meeting Agenda has been released.

  • 20 Jul 2011 4:47 AM | Michael Jennings (Administrator)

    Captain Michael Miglini , Port Aransas Texas

    Welcome to the end of the shortest-ever red snapper season for recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. It came and went in just 48 days. Now, tourists and local fishing enthusiasts will have to wait until next June to catch and bring in one of the most popular offshore fish the Gulf has to offer. Fishing business owners that run charters and head boats, will now have to try to make ends meet by selling trips for less popular offshore fish or inshore fish, or finding other work. As a charter/head boat owner, the upcoming year looks bleak for me and my peers.

    Tourism is at the heart of our economy in this region, and our world-class fishing is one of the biggest draws we offer. So why do we stand for fishing rules that have shortened red snapper fishing to a fraction of the tourist season? It doesn’t make sense.

    We got to this point because offshore fishing has become very popular. But the problem isn’t the popularity of fishing – that’s a good thing! - it’s that the old rules haven’t kept up.  The sport has outgrown the fishing rules set up to ensure there are enough fish in the sea to reproduce for next year. Now, because so many people go out fishing for red snapper, the rules dictate that the seasons must shrink to ensure we stay within a sustainable limit of fish.

    The hard truth is that without changes to fishing rules, our future will be full of shorter and shorter offshore snapper seasons, and perhaps even no seasons at all.

    All businesses in our area can agree that having more flexibility in the fishing season is a positive thing. Being able to tout red snapper fishing trips to spring breakers, winter snowbirds and other visitors would add to the year-round tourism appeal of our coasts.  Within the fishing industry, it’s well accepted that the season is too short, that we need more fishing flexibility and that we need to improve fishery science. So what are our options?

    I represent the Charter Fisherman’s Association, a group of fishermen throughout the Gulf of Mexico that works to improve the health of the fishery and charter businesses in order to provide more fishing time for anglers. We know that our industry is in a downward spiral and that we have to change the way things are managed.

    To do that, we believe in working directly with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council – which makes the offshore fishing rules – to test out solutions with voluntary pilot projects. This is a safe way to try out new management and see what works before putting all of our eggs in one basket.

    We’re specifically interested in exploring programs that give fishermen the flexibility to fish throughout the year.  We realize in order to do this we will need to be responsible for staying within safe fishing limits and count and report the fish we catch and discard in order to improve the science too. To us, it seems the added flexibility to provide recreational fishing access when and how anglers want it is going to be worth the extra effort and reporting we need to do for this privilege.  The Council is currently discussing two options which fit this bill: a voluntary individual fishing quota pilot program for head boats and a days-at-sea pilot program for charter boats. Both programs would improve flexibility, keep fishing within its limits and improve fishery science.

    Not everyone agrees with us, and that’s ok, as long as we can all work together toward a solution that will benefit our businesses, our fishery and our communities. There is a lot at stake and constructive collaboration is necessary to restore and protect our long fishing heritage.

    Whether you’re a fisherman, a business owner or a local community leader, you can help. Reach out to me at mmiglini@charterfisherman.org to learn more.

    Mike Miglini is a USCG licensed master captain and charter/headboat operator in Port Aransas, TX.  His company Out to Sea Adventures runs fishing, spearfishing and SCUBA diving trips booked either by the individual passenger or booked by the whole boat for private groups.  Contact info@outtoseaadventures.com (361) 288-2723 for more information.

  • 08 Apr 2011 11:29 PM | Michael Jennings (Administrator)

    Longer red snapper fishing seasons on horizon
    with help from problem-solving charter fishermen

     

     

                 Contact: Gary Jarvis, Charter Fisherman’s Association, gary@charterfisherman.org, PHONE 850-259-5482

     

    Innovative proposals are moving through the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council  process for better managing heavily targeted Gulf red snapper caught aboard charter and head boats by anglers. Such programs could produce longer fishing seasons, more fishing time for anglers, better business opportunities, and sustainable fishing practices.

    Current fishing rules hurt anglers and fishing businesses by severely limiting fishing with short seasons, while promoting wasteful discarding of perfectly good fish because of size limitations. . Moreover, the rules also fail to manage the fishery effectively, the recreational limit of red snapper has been greatly exceeded for most of the last 20 years.

    “Our businesses make a huge contribution to coastal economies, but they’re being hung out to dry with these bad fishing rules,” said Johnny Williams, a head boat owner in Galveston, Texas and Charter Fisherman’s Association member. 

    The Council’s Limited Access Privilege Program Advisory Panel is currently working on two innovative, voluntary pilot management projects: a “days at sea” program for charter boats and an individual fishing quota program for head boats.

    “The Council deserves praise for attempting to tackle this recreational fishing management problem in new ways,” said Gary Jarvis, charter boat owner in Destin, Florida and Charter Fisherman’s Association President. “These voluntary pilot projects are critical to show us if alternative management can work.”

     Members of the Charter Fisherman’s Association and  other fishing and conservation groups are working  towards long-term solutions to increase fishing time, improve businesses, and ensure a sustainable fishery.  Other industry groups criticize this progress and advocate doing nothing, or worse: “Quick-fixes” that lack any conservation considerations in order to avoid responsibility.

    The Council has created several ways for recreational fishing groups and others to advocate for new management options for the red snapper and other valuable fisheries. The Charter Fisherman’s Association is also working to collaborate with other solutions-driven fishing organizations. Contact the Association at www.charterfisherman.org or get involved at www.gulfcouncil.org 
  • 15 Feb 2011 11:38 PM | Michael Jennings (Administrator)


    February 15, 2011 4:44 PM , By Gary Jarvis, Captain's Log

    The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met last week in Gulfport, Miss., and discussed several important management reforms for recreational fishing, including a concept called Sector Separation. Such proposals seek to stabilize struggling charter fishing businesses and increase fishing time for anglers.

    Sector Separation would follow scientific and legal suggestions to manage valuable Gulf fish by the groups that catch them: commercial fishermen, charter fishermen and anglers.

    Hundreds of charter fishermen have expressed support for the Sector Separation over the last three years.

    Existing regulations undefined like short fishing seasons undefined leave very little time to take customers fishing and are killing Gulf charter businesses. The charter for-hire sector needs its own fishery management plan in order to modernize the way they run their businesses. A failing charter fishing industry hurts local economies, families of fishermen, and limits fishing time for anglers.

    Currently, charter fishermen and anglers are managed together and share the same pool of fish. By taking responsibility for their own industry through Sector Separation, charter fishermen can improve how they count and report the fish they catch and develop management systems that provide more flexibility for their businesses.

    It makes good sense that the different fishing groups would be managed separately, because they each operate very differently. Commercial fishermen provide food to Americans; charter fishermen run tourism-driven businesses that provide anglers the ability to go fishing; and private boat recreational anglers fish on their own for fun.

    Charter businesses take millions of anglers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico each year and many customers spend a considerable amount of money to travel, lodge and eat in the area. With charter for hire businesses operating under Sector Separation, recreational anglers will still catch and keep all the fish.

    We commend the council for considering Sector Separation. The council should move swiftly to adopt separate sectors for charter fishermen and their recreational anglers in all Gulf fisheries.

    Gary Jarvis is a Destin fisherman and president for the Charter Fisherman’s Association, a group of Gulf of Mexico fishermen who want improve the health of the fishery and charter businesses, in order to provide more fishing time for anglers. Visit www.charterfisherman.org for more information.

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