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Longliners Target Billfish in Conservation Zone, Again

Controversial exempted fishing permit benefiting a single company back from the dead

Conservationists won a victory late last year when an exempted fishing permit to allow longline gear into a closed conservation zone was declared invalid after Nova Southeastern University insisted that its name be removed from the permit. The East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area has been closed since 2001 after it was determined that longlines were killing too many juvenile billfish in this known nursery area. However, industrial harvsesters are again targeting the conservation zone with indiscriminate longline gear.

The three-year permit application has been re-filed and the details are alarming:

Nova Southeastern University has been replaced as the affiliated institution on the permit by something called Florida Fisheries Solutions LLC, created in December 2017, by the same person who filed the permit. No other individuals are listed on the corporate paperwork.

The co-applicant on the permit is Day Boat Seafood Inc., which owns or is associated with all of the longline boats that would be authorized to fish in the conservation zone. Day Boat Seafood would be allowed to sell all the legal fish caught under this permit.

Other longline boats could be able to fish in the conservation zone if they are approved by Day Boat Seafood and Florida Fisheries Solutions and are willing to pay them a "fee to support the project."

The permit proposes to make 22 times as many longline sets as that which was deemed necessary to be scientifically sufficient for a similar permit in 2008.

In this effort targeting a known nursery area, thousands of marlin, sailfish and swordfish are projected to be discarded dead over the term of the permit.

Efforts are well underway to reform the federal law that makes it too easy to manipulate the exempted fishing permit process - the gaping loopholes in the EFP program that would allow a fleet of longliners into the East Coast Closed Zone must be eliminated - but until then, action must be taken now to turn back this attack on the conservation zone.

Click here to send a message to your representatives on the South Atlantic Fishery Management and urge them to send a strong message back to NOAA by rejecting this permit. The public comment session for the upcoming South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting will be March 7 at 4:30 p.m., at the Westin Jekyll Island in Georgia, and will be the only opportunity conservationists in the region will have to voice their opposition.

Industrial harvesters will go to any lengths to plunder the gains made in the conservation zones and it is up to concerned anglers like you to turn them back. Please make your voice heard today and make plans to attend the South Atlantic Council meeting in person, if possible. Coastal Conservation Association will be there to make the case but we need the support of our members to defend these conservation gains. Thank you.

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