JEKYLL ISLAND, GEORGIA – A controversial exempted fishing permit (EFP) to initiate a commercial privatization program for at least six species of fish in the South Atlantic was shelved this week after widespread public outcry.
The announcement that the South Atlantic Commercial Fishing Collaborative, made up of two sitting Council members and one former member, were withdrawing the EFP was made at the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in Jekyll Island, Georgia.
“Public sentiment against this EFP was overwhelming, which shows that the angling public is very much aware of these privatization schemes and they’ve had enough of them,” said Bill Bird, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee. “There should be no place for privatization of our public marine resources in the federal fisheries management system, but our fear is that this EFP will be retooled and reintroduced in the future when the noise dies down. Anglers in the South Atlantic will have to remain vigilant.”
The EFP and the composition of the South Atlantic Fishing Collaborative were unveiled in an editorial by Jeff Angers with the Center for Sportfishing Policy on SportFishingMag.com last week. It was highlighted as an example of the manipulation that is becoming rampant in federal fisheries management as commercial harvesters vie to acquire valuable shares of public marine resources for free. The exempted fishing permit process itself is also coming under scrutiny as it is operates wholly outside the public management process. Although Councils are usually given the opportunity to vote on the permits, sole authority to approve or disapprove them rests with bureaucrats at NOAA Fisheries.
“The fishery management process is simply not designed to handle the level of greed and manipulation that accompanies this type of resource giveaway, where millions of dollars are on the line,” said Bird. “This particular permit, where appointed Council members were seeking an inside track to ownership of these fish, a prime example of how EFPs are being misused to circumvent public process and procedure. The entire federal fishery management system needs to be reformed.”
“Thanks to everyone who contributed to this outcome. The Council had so many copies of CCA’s letter against the permit sent to them that the presenter stated it aloud at the start of the comment session. Right after that, they announced the withdrawal of the request for the EFP,” said Tim Tarver, CCA Georgia board member. “The American people scored a victory.