The recreational fishing and boating community is applauding a recent decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service to deny an Exempted Fishing Permit that would have allowed pelagic longline vessels into the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area.
Earlier this year, leading recreational fishing and boating organizations, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, submitted public comment to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in opposition to the EFP.
More than two decades ago, swordfish in the Western Atlantic were in serious trouble due to overfishing. The public responded forcefully to the plight of swordfish, and as a result, nursery areas were identified and closed to the United States PLL fleet in 2001.
Today, anglers point to the recovery with pride as a significant conservation victory.
“Angler conservationists can breathe a sigh of relief that the longline EFP application is no longer a threat to the conservation gains in the E. Florida Closed Zone,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “We will remain vigilant in protecting both this conservation zone we fought so hard for two decades ago as well as this amazing catch-and-release sailfish fishery that has grown off the east coast of Florida.”
Since the fishery was deemed recovered, there have been attempts to reopen closed areas to commercial harvest and expose it to the types of intense commercial fishing pressure that drove it into an overfished condition.
The permit denied by NOAA Fisheries would have authorized PLL vessels to make thousands of sets in the conservation zone for up to three years and sell all legally caught fish.