The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Fort Myers, Florida, challenging Amendment 29 to the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan approved on August 30. Amendment 29 gives away a majority share of Gulf grouper to the commercial fishing industry through a catch share program.
"CCA has stated from the beginning that this management action is fundamentally flawed," said Chester Brewer, chairman of the CCA National Government Relations Committee. "In moving forward with Amendment 29, the federal government has disregarded multiple provisions in the Magnuson Stevens Act designed to govern the impacts of such action on other participants in the fishery. The only ones considered in this amendment are the commercial fishermen."
Catch share systems grant a portion of a public resource-in this case, grouper-- to a select group of commercial fishermen to harvest for their own personal gain. The commercials pay nothing for the permanent rights to harvest a set percentage of the public resource. CCA maintains that where there is a large and growing recreational sector, exclusive fishing rights proposals ignore the importance of recreational fishing.
"In more than 30 years of practice in fisheries law, I have not seen a more arbitrary action than this one," said Robert G. Hayes, CCA general counsel. CCA has asked for an expedited hearing and expects the government to answer the lawsuit within the next 60 days. "We are going to proceed as quickly as the court will allow to prevent the implementation of this egregious decision."
For the comments CCA submitted to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council on Amendment 29 in June 2009, visit the Catch Share section of the CCA Newsroom at www.JoinCCA.org.