A timely note from Editor Jeff Weakley:
We need to plan a swordfish trip at the end of the month. Check out March 31: It’s a blue moon—the second full moon in the month. And, that will be the second time we’ll see one in 2018. They say a “double blue moon” happens maybe three times a century.
What’s that have to do with swordfish? Well, I looked back, and last time we had a double blue moon was 1999. What a year that was! So many of us were pushing to protect swordfish from commercial longline bykill, setting the stage for the closed areas off Florida’s east coast, and the DeSoto Canyon in the Gulf.
As you recall, Ellen Peel from The Billfish Foundation, Mike Leech from IGFA, Ken Hinman from National Coalition for Marine Conservation, Ted Forsgren from Coastal Conservation Association, Andrew Schultz from the South Florida Fishing Club, Ray Stormont from Miami Rod and Reel Club, Joan Vernon, Monte Lopez, Tim Choate, Bouncer Smith and dozens more attended the hearings. I did, too, on behalf of Florida Sportsman.
To federal managers, and, in some cases, congressmen, we pled the case for action to save swordfish, marlin and other species from longlines.
I was just telling Conway about what got everyone so hot back then: the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) billfish “conservation” plan. What a joke that was. No mention of season or area restrictions on longlines. That gear had swordfish populations on a death spiral since the 1970s. All those small, nonmarketable swords cut off and tossed back dead into the ocean currents. Same thing happening with marlin and sailfish. What did NMFS propose? Raise the minimum sizes for recreational catches. Nuts.
The “Goodyear Paper,” really helped clear things up. It graphed those swordfish nursery zones and marlin habitat. The author, Dr. Phil Goodyear, used longline logbook and observer data to show the bykill hot zones: Florida’s east coast; DeSoto Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico; others north along the U.S. eastern seaboard.
The stars were in alignment, you might say: We had the data, the motivation, the unity and the willpower. Finally forced NMFS’ hand and produced a solution to longline bykill.
Is conservation success like this as rare as a double blue moon? Nah.
I’m seeing all kinds of attainable goals for the near future: A solution to the red snapper craziness in the Gulf and Atlantic; gamefish status for seatrout; designation and protection of snook nurseries; stabilization of reef fish seasons; reversal of seagrass and coral reef declines.
Let’s get out there and fish this month. Let’s celebrate the recovery of the great billfish. Your boat or mine?
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine March 2018