Legalize Red Snapper in South Atlantic Region, Request Federal Oversight in SAFMC Autonomy

Legalize Red Snapper in South Atlantic Region, Request Federal Oversight in SAFMC Autonomy

August 8, 2022
Signatures: 1,598Next Goal: 2,500
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Why this petition matters

Started by Haley Christina

N.O.A.A. Fisheries Service & South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Complaint

To the Honorable Governor Ron DeSantis; 

(CC: All other Florida Representatives and Elected Officials)

This document is a request for assistance from your office. Your interdiction in these economically devastating and unethical actions being considered by N.O.A.A. Fisheries Southeast Atlantic Management Council are urgently requested. Without your interdiction a regulating body will be allowed to enact regulations on the fishing community based on what appears to be knowingly and possibly intentionally flawed “Science”.

We are seeking relief through whatever legal means in correcting the unjust practices of the N.O.A.A Fisheries Service and the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. These are not our elected officials who are governing us but are the people appointed by elected officials who they have granted great power to regulate us with autonomy. Their regulations are threatening our economic survival.

Their claim is that the formulation of their regulations that determine season dates and harvest limits is based on Scientific Data and statistics derived from scientific research. This simply is not true.

In examination of their own documents they admit they are fully aware that their data is not accurate, reliable and certainly can not withstand the Scientific Method of analysis that is the standard for scientific research. To be science, evidence must be gathered, a hypothesis formed and then tested and found to be true. Their science does not support factual observations of the literal armies of anglers that fish off of the east coast of Florida.

Their claim is that the red snapper population is not stable and therefore needs further and more significant regulation. In N.O.A.A.'s Regulatory Amendment 35 Decision Document June 2022 they claim that their stock assessments show that red snapper are overfished and continue to be overfished. They also state the red snapper catch needs to be reduced by one third of the 2021 catch levels.

Their gatherings of catch data by both F.W.C. and N.O.A.A. appears to be counted in multiples as evidenced by the multi agency collection of the same information from the same sources multiple times to arrive at their statistical harvest data. N.O.A.A. has requested the data gathered by F.W.C. again this year be shared with them “to bolster their ability to gather more statistical numbers” I am fully aware that each agency has some differing research goals but the combining of harvest data on multiple formats and methods defies the possibility of an accurate account of the true harvest information and duplicating the same information from the same sources begs for inaccuracy and over estimations. If there are no checks in place to prevent duplication of this information, how can it possibly be accurate?

N.O.A.A. is currently gathering and preparing statistics compiled from their recent survey of the two day red snapper season July 08 & 09, 2022. They suggested at their July meeting that this information will be used to further restrict harvests of red snapper along the South Atlantic U.S. Coast. At their July 02, 2022 meeting in Key West, the meeting notes that were published on the internet along with their future recommendations for additional restrictions were discussed. No where in their meeting agenda or notes is there any discussion on granting less restrictive regulations although some F.W.C. experts indicate that the red snapper numbers off the east coast are at an all time high.

The problem with this newly gathered data is that the information by all logical evidence shows that it is skewered. This same thing was done last year resulting in a shortened season this year.

All licensed charter boats are required to have a federal snapper/grouper permit issued to the individual charter vessel. We are required to report all fish catches via electronic reporting directly to N.O.A.A. by species. This also requires the reporting of fish released, where they were caught, water depth and a number of additional intrusive financial questions about our business. This electronic reporting provides N.O.A.A with fish count by species and a variety of other statistical data of all charter boats operating in the South Atlantic Fishery. In none of the surveys do they ask for any statistical information to help accurately estimate actual mortality from sharks, other predators or barotrauma observed by the captains of the vessels. This would be the best evidence available.

N.O.A.A. has requested and received the assistance of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to assist them in gathering the same data from the same charter boats. Is this to enable the same fish to be counted again? This was done by sending a form letter. The letter was sent to all charter boat captains requesting this information be documented and returned to their office. F.W.C. acknowledges that they are aware that we are federally permitted and are a charter boat, but regardless wanted the information again.

F.W.C. then sent employees out to various docks and boat ramps along the East Florida Coast to gather the statistical data from any one coming into the boat ramps or docks. This provided them the opportunity to count the same fish a third time even though they were told that the fish on the charter boats were already reported directly via electronic means to N.O.A.A. They still demanded to inspect the fish at the dock even after being advised of this. It appears they are using this information to skewer the stock harvest assessment. This same method was executed by N.O.A.A and F.W.C. last year resulting in a reduction of fishing days for snapper along the east coast this year. Draw your own conclusion. Our “Red Snapper Season” has every available and not always seaworthy boat on the fishing grounds as the high demand is unquestionable. These days overwhelm the regular numbers of boats fishing the reefs. Are they using these inflated numbers over a 2 or 3 day season to estimate the daily fishery of the reef system for the entire year? This alone would skewer the accuracy of their statistical estimates greatly. Do they estimate bad weather days in these estimations, or just multiply their estimates by 365? They do not discuss this procedure.

A few days after the season I got another phone call requesting the same information from a F.W.C. employee. From this alone it appears to be obvious that accuracy of statistical data is not their objective. It appears the objective is to gather excessive harvest numbers that can be used to further restrict species harvest levels. All with F.W.C.’s full cooperation.

More proof: During the N.O.A.A. meeting held in June 2022 in Key West, Fl.

Their agenda itinerary included supportive documents for their proposed new regulations (Regulatory Amendment 35) that further proves their agenda. Within these documents are claims that the Red Snapper Fishery along the east coast is still being overfished and to achieve “acceptable levels a reduction of 43% needs to be made to the catch.” They based this on the statistical numbers gathered in F.Y-2021 survey. ( page 4 of the SAFMC,net/post/ south-atlantic-council-moving-forward-to-address-red-snapper-and-reduce-release-martality publication 7/10/22)

These “Scientists and statisticians” also claim that the numbers of dead red snapper releases “far outnumber the fish removed from the population by harvest”. This claim according to their documentation is based on data from 2002 and 2004 study compiled by Burns et al. The study claimed that the mortality rate is 64% but does not identify how this percentage is derived.

This data was gathered pre J hook prohibition and pre venting and descending device requirements to improve mortality rates but it appears that these are the statistics under current use despite the publication acknowledging that the information is biased in that it was gathered from commercial logbooks only because they have no independent data on recreational fishing mortality.

The document states, commercial fish mortality is believed to be higher based on other studies conducted. On a spreadsheet identified as SEDAR 73 landings and dead releases, used as a part of the new “Decision Document” they show recreational dead releases for snapper being 519,470 fish and the commercial dead release being 48,070 fish for fiscal year 2019 a total of 567,540 fish. The acceptable discards for P/Year 2022 is 195000 fish to meet their requirements. Given these numbers a wholesale closure of the Florida coastal reef system would be necessary. Be prepared for massive closures. (Amendment 35 Decision document 6/2022 page 2 table-1 & page 7 App table-1)

There is currently no requirement for recreational fishermen to report their catch or released snapper, mortality data, fishing depths or other statistics, so where are these ”statistical” numbers coming from? N.O.A.A. has no idea the number or frequency that recreational fishermen target reef fish or specifically red snapper.

According to the South Atlantic Red Snapper Research Spend Plan document ,these numbers in future studies are to be derived from their reef fish discard estimation project where they propose to place observers on commercial boats to count the discards of snapper. Their plan is to cover 6% of the commercial reef fishery in order to derive an accurate estimation. In their same published paper they admit currently “The discard information we have is self reported and is considered highly uncertain”. “Covering 6% of the commercial reef fish fishery for one year is sufficient data for N.O.A.A would allow reliable estimates of commercial discards of red snapper and other reef fish.” 6% of the total reef fishery along Florida’s east coast covered with part time observers is going to give them a means to gather accurate estimates?

Another interesting publication is the N.O.A.A publication entitled “Mortality in Snapper Grouper Fishery” It states that the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council’s plan is to reduce the catch levels of red snapper as “The stock levels remain overfished.” ... “primarily due to the increased number of fish that die after being released”.

How do they prove this claim? With the prohibition of J hooks and the mandating of venting and descending devices why are the mortality rates increasing? Are these mandated procedures causing a higher mortality rate? If the mortality rates were really a concern why schedule the recreational snapper season in the middle of their peak breeding season June to August? Would you not want to protect them during their peak breeding time when the fish are congregated? Again in N.O.A.A. Decision Document in Amendment 35 states: Some Snapper/ Grouper species form spawning aggregations, which makes them especially more vulnerable to fishing pressure during Aggregating events.” (page-19) Page 16 provides a spreadsheet depicting the peak spawning times of various reef fish including red snapper, June through August. If this is the case why is N.O.A.A. scheduling the recreational season during the peak of red snapper spawning season if they were trying to protect their vulnerability to harvest?

Further why do they admit to “A recurring statistical problem is that there are so many red snapper that discards showing up in bycatch that it is causing the fishery to be overfished.” The stock levels in Florida are at record high levels. N.O.A.A. is calling for the surveys conducted during the recreational snapper season to be expanded into Georgia and South of Cape Canaveral Florida due to the spread of the species into new areas. Why are they expanding their historic geographical area if they are not overpopulating past carrying capacity? Document ( South Atlantic Red Snapper Research Spending Plan P/Y 22 bottom of page 1.)

N.O.A.A. currently claims the red snapper population will not be stable until 2044?

The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council who by the way is composed of some F.W.C. personnel in part with others, appears to desire to regulate bottom fishing out of existence. Currently there are considerations of closing down the bottom fishing completely or in part potentially from North Carolina to the Florida Keys.

Their agenda will destroy the bottom fishing industry along the southeast coast. The economic impact of their decisions based on speculation instead of sound science could have an unnecessary and devastating effect on the fishing industry for both charter boats and recreational fishermen alike. This is being orchestrated by unelected bureaucrats with unfettered power and no accountability for their actions. They are protected from recourse and it is time for our elected officials to step up, be accountable and correct this.

In closing, I am a lifelong fisherman that happens to be a commercial charter captain. I wish to go on the record as attesting to the fact that I recognize the need for reasonable and prudent regulation of our natural resources to preserve them. I do however desire these regulations to be based on sound judgement, facts, and provable science and when they are not someone should be held accountable. Our livelihoods and futures, the fishing industry and recreational fishermen pursuing their passion are at stake.

In Service to my Community,

Captain, Thomas “Murray” McDonald Jr.

Dambote Charters Inc.


Other Captains & Businesses Attesting & Supporting the Above Document:

Captain Mike Nelson -Knot On Duty Fishing Charters

Captain Chris Endicott - Finn-Addict Charter Fishing & (Commerical)

Captain Paul Nelson IV - Bloodline Offshore Fishing Charters

Captain Murray McDonald III - Dambote Fishing Charters

Captain Ed Zona -Apex Fishing Fleet

Captain Chris Rasberry - Salty Strikes Fishing Charter

Captain Brian Imbrunone - Caught Up Fishing Charters

Captain Ed Defeo Jr. - Tails Up Fishing Charters

Captain Damien Lawler - Lucky Strike Sportfishing Charters

Captain JJ Ellis - Reef Wrecker Fishing Charters

Captain David Jones - Davy Jones Fishing Company

Captain Aaron Highers - Top Notch Adventures

Captain Jason Hardy - Try N’ Hooker Fishing Charters

Captain Kyle Bryer - All Schooled Up Fishing Charters

Captain Cody Kendrath - Vulcan Charters

Captain John Kyp - Reel-Axing Fishing Charters

Captain Willaim McNutt - Down South Fishing Company

Captain Eric McPherson - Down South Fishing Company

Captain Kevin Gill - Coastline Charters

Captain Eric Schweikart - Drop ‘Em Down Fishing Charters

Captain Steve Andrews - Who Cares Fishing Charters

Captain Corey Simmons - On The Hook Charters

Captain Scott Housel - Sudden Strike Offshore Adventures

Captain Melissa Leone

Captain Jeff Emery - Honey Bear Inc LLC (Commercial)

Captain Tony Varano - Reel Compulsive Charters

Captain Fred Zona - Southwind Charters

Captain Mark Gibson - Daytona Beach Fishing Charters (NautiDiver)

Captain Jesse Jones - Pelagic Charters Offshore Fishing

Captain Mike Kyp - Fireline Charters

Captain Nic Stephens - Sea Spirit Fishing (Headboat)

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Signatures: 1,598Next Goal: 2,500
Support now

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