East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area
More than two decades ago, billfish in the Western Atlantic were in serious trouble due to overfishing by longliners. That area, known as the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area, has been closed since 2001 after it was determined that this indiscriminate fishing method was killing too many juvenile billfish in this known nursery area. Since then, the population of billfish has recovered tremendously. Recreational anglers still point to the recovery with pride as a significant conservation victory. Similar efforts to gain access for longline fishing have been made. Over a year ago, a controversial exempted fishing permit to allow limited pelagic longlining in the closed federal waters off Florida’s east coast for “scientific study” was invalidated after the sponsoring academic institution, NOVA Southeastern University, withdrew its support for the project.
However, loopholes in the federal exempted fishing permit process are making it possible for industrial fishing interests to circumvent public process and opposition to controversial measures that benefit a certain sector or even select individuals within a certain sector. This exempted fishing permit being reviewed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council would again affect the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area.
In early March, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council asked for public comments to be submitted on the exempted fishing permits. Over 600 comments were received that provided strong testimony to keep longliners out of the conservation zone. However, there is still more to be done.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is made up of Governors' appointees. For our efforts to be successful, we need the Governors of Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina to oppose this destructive policy. Send your Governor a pre-written letter in the link below. The letter will encourage our Governors to tell their appointees to reject exempted fishing permits for longliners in East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area.