Fishermen from around the country are planning to pack the steps in front of the U.S. Capitol this week to demand changes to a federal fisheries law they say is killing jobs and eroding fishing communities. Recreational Fishermen from Panama City, Destin and Mexico Beach will be loading buses Tuesday morning at Captain Anderson’s Marina and begin their journey to our Nation’s Capital. They will spend the night in Richmond and meet protesters from around the Country at the Capital Building for the rally at noon.
Organizers of the “United We Fish” rally expect an estimated 3-5,000 people at the Feb. 24 protest, including a bipartisan roster of congressmen, fishermen and their advocates from up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and a smattering from the West Coast and Alaska.
Jim Hutchinson Jr. of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, a rally organizer, said the overall goal is changing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal fisheries law that was reauthorized in 2007. Hutchinson said the law sets unrealistic fish stock recovery goals based on flawed science, then mandates harsh cuts for failing to meet the goals. “This is about real people having real concerns and being put out of business, being kicked off the water.” Hutchinson said. Hutchinson’s New Jersey-based group started organizing the rally after a closure of the amberjack fishery last year followed other closures it viewed as based on bad science, such as on a healthy black sea bass stock.
Gulf Coastal fishermen have been deeply affected by the Red Snapper season that continues to be shortened year after year. In 2009 the Red Snapper season was 75 days, beginning June 1. It has been proposed that the 2010 Red Snapper season be shortened to around 51 days. This has yet to be finalized.
Planes, trains and automobiles — and dozens of buses — have already begun the trek to Washington, D.C. as a national movement of fishermen gather in an effort to convince Congress to put more economic opportunity into the Magnuson-Stevens fisheries recovery act.
Our local groups of Recreational Fisherman will be keeping PCBDaily informed by posting updates on Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube. The Fishing Rights Alliance also plans to live stream the rally here.
“The closures keep coming and it’s good to see the collective fishing communities and industries, both recreational and commercial, calling for scientific based Magnuson reform,” said Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). “We are all in this together.” Donofrio cited recent closures of amberjack, black sea bass and red snapper fisheries as examples of what he calls a “broken” federal fisheries law.
Jim Donofrio added, “We need to let Congress and NOAA know that we are the collective voice of the recreational fishing community and the collective voice does not accept the current broken management system which wreaks such havoc on all of us and our businesses.”