Gulf Coast Fisherman
June 1, 2015
REMINDER ON MANDATORY DOCKSIDE SAFETY EXAMINATIONS
Commercial fishing vessels of any size, both state-registered and federally-documented, must receive a safety examination no later than October 15, 2015. This applies to all vessels operating beyond 3 nautical miles of the baseline of the U.S. territorial sea or the coastline of the Great Lakes, operating anywhere with more than 16 individuals on board (either inside 3 miles of the baseline or beyond 3 miles of the baseline), and fish tender vessels engaged in the Aleutian trade. These vessels will need to complete this dockside safety examination at least once every 5 years, however, some vessels, depending on their operation or areas of service, may be subject to a more frequent examination schedule.
If you have had your vessel examined recently, but the issued safety decal expires before the new requirement takes effect, you should have your vessel re-examined prior to October 15, 2015 if the above criteria applies. If you do not have a valid safety decal after October 15, 2015, you could be subject to operational controls that may be directed by a Captain of the Port Order. To help alleviate last minute exam scheduling backlogs, do not wait until the last minute to request an examination, as there will likely be a rush on examination requests closer to the scheduled October 2015 deadline. In Mississippi and Alabama, vessel owners are encouraged to contact the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Mobile, Alabama (phone:1-800-880-3193) to schedule an exam.
FALSE MAYDAY FINES DOUBLED
Contained in the most recent Coast Guard reauthorization bill were some items of interest to boat operators. Fines for making false distress calls were raised from $5,000 to $10,000, and the Coast Guard was directed to assess and report on the coordination of search-and-rescue agreements with local 911 centers. A freeze on decommissioning Loran infrastructure for one year was included in the bill, until the Coast Guard can report on whether it might still be needed as a backup to GPS.
ABANDONED AND DERELICT VESSELS REMOVED IN ALABAMA
Project partners tripled their intended removal of 24 to 36 high priority abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) and were able to remove 90 ADVs. This wildly successful removal project in coastal Alabama, led by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL), Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Dog River Clearwater Revival resulted in more than 130 metric tons of debris removed from Dog River, Fowl River, and on the Dauphin Island Causeway!
By combining dogged determination and the overwhelming support from the local community with the NOAA Restoration Center and Marine Debris Program’s Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, this group greatly exceeded their goals and made a huge difference in the Dog River and Fowl River watersheds.
This ADV removal effort included 12 organizations, 87 volunteers (1,611 hours donated), and support from across Alabama’s coast. In phase 1 of the removal, the team contracted Lovvorn Pile Driving, Inc. to remove up to 36 vessels. Mr. Lovvorn’s local knowledge and desire for a clean watershed ensured the project’s success and resulted in lower removal costs. In phase 2, DISL worked with J&W Marine, expanding into parts of the Fowl River watershed. When contacted to discuss the contract, Wayne Eldridge, owner of J&W Marine and former commercial oysterman, stated, “I would have done the work for free. I’ve wanted to clean that up for years.” Eldridge’s interest and long standing relationships in coastal Alabama benefitted this project and the health of the Fowl River watershed.
In addition to this impressive removal operation, the team has been spreading the message to prevent ADVs. By educating the surrounding community, the team aims to reduce the number of vessels abandoned in Alabama’s emergent wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, riparian boundaries, and un-vegetated soft river bottoms. They have also replanted native submerged aquatic vegetation to restore the habitat and have already witnessed the return of local vegetation and wildlife. The team continues to conduct research on the impacts of ADVs on water quality and habitat and share what they have learned with others around dealing with similar ADV issues around the United States.
MISSISSIPPI RED SNAPPER REPORTING SYSTEM NOW AVAILABLE
Recreational fishermen and captains of for-hire vessels now are required to report their Red Snapper harvest when it is landed in Mississippi. Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) have implemented several methods for fishermen to report their Red Snapper harvest, including a smartphone App, a website, and a call center. “The purpose of this electronic reporting system is to provide fishery managers the best available data to ensure Mississippi anglers the most opportunities and greatest flexibility for Red Snapper harvest,” said Matt Hill, director of MDMR’s Finfish Bureau. “The mandatory reporting system will provide for accurate and timely data that will be used for better resource management.” Anglers with smartphones can download “Tails N Scales” in the iTunes App store or on Google Play or log onto www.tailsnscales.org. They can create a profile now using the App or website; however, they cannot create a trip until May 28. Also, they must close out one trip before creating a new one.
Beginning May 28, anglers can call 1-844-MSSNAPP (677-6277) to speak to a representative to create their profile and a trip. The federal season for Red Snapper runs from June 1-10. The Commission on Marine Resources on Tuesday authorized MDMR Executive Director Jamie Miller to open a supplemental state season, but no dates have been set. Last year, red snapper reporting was voluntary. This year, though, MDMR has made it mandatory in order to record more accurate data. For more information on reporting data, go to the Red Snapper page at dmr.ms.gov.
Alabama began mandatory reporting last year. The Marine Resources Division reminds recreational red snapper anglers that the captain or owner of any vessel, private or charter, is required to report all red snapper kept and discarded dead prior to landing in Alabama. Only one report is required per vessel trip and anglers can provide information via one of the following methods; the Outdoor Alabama Pocket Ranger® app available in the iTunes or Google Play app stores, online at outdooralabama.com; by telephone at 1-844-REDSNAP (1-844-733-7627), or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches. All red snapper are required to be reported regardless of whether they were caught in Alabama’s waters, federal waters or an adjacent state’s waters.
CONGRESS DEBATES CONTROVERSIAL CATFISH INSPECTION
American lawmakers are trying again to stop a controversial catfish inspection program, which has been described as a waste of American taxpayers’ money and a trade barrier to Asian countries such as Vietnam. This time, the politicians are trying to work a repeal of the program into a trade promotion authority bill currently before the US Senate.
The bill, nicknamed the fast track bill, is designed to assist with future negotiations of trade agreements. The inspection program, which has not yet officially come into effect, is seen as a major barrier to trade in these products from Vietnam. It is currently of particular interest because the Obama administration is currently working on a major new trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, between the United States and several Asian countries. This is why Senators John McCain and Jeanne Shaheen are pushing to add an amendment to the bill that repeals a catfish inspection program that first went on the books as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, and later confirmed with the 2014 Farm Bill. The program took responsibility from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for inspecting catfish, and transfers it to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“The real aim was to raise costs for Vietnamese exports and drive them from the US market,” Mr McCain said on the senate floor on Tuesday.
Proponents of the program have argued it is necessary to beef up inspection of the product to prevent contaminants from causing public health problems in the United States. Opponents, including Mr. McCain and Ms. Shaheen, have said there is no health threat, and that the program instead will serve as an unofficial trade barrier to block imported catfish and protect domestic catfish producers in states such as Mississippi.
Mr McCain said Asian countries, whom the Obama administration is now courting in the new trade agreement, see the program as a trade barrier too. He added that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has indicated this program, if it were to finally take effect, would be seen by the WTO as a trade barrier. In addition, the Vietnamese government also has indicated it may retaliate against the United States with similar trade barriers to American export products such as beef.
At the very least, Mr McCain said, Vietnam will likely appeal to the WTO for relief, “where it would probably win.” Mr McCain also noted the program has not yet officially begun, but setup costs have already passed the $20 million mark, drawing the ire of multiple public officials and taxpayer watchdog groups. Even the Government Accountability Office, has called the program wasteful on nine separate occasions. Amending the current trade bill to remove the program, Mr McCain said, will end the waste.
“If we don’t allow this amendment, we are really, really showing a degree of contempt and arrogance to the taxpayers of America,” he said.
Ms Shaheen also spoke against the program, calling it wasteful and duplicative, and urged the senate to repeal it before it officially begins. “This may be our last chance to solve this problem,” she said.
Senator Thad Cochran, who has been behind the program from the beginning, said the new trade bill amendment was resurrecting an issue that the legislature had already decided upon.
“It has been debated and resolved in two separate Farm Bills,” he said.
He also cited a lack of inspections of catfish, noting the current system, relying on the FDA, allows inspection of only 2 percent of catfish imports, risking exposure of Americans to hazardous contaminants.
“This is just not acceptable,” he said.
Senator Roger Wicker, who also supports the program, cited the same statistic, saying, “That gives me pause as a consumer.”
Mr Wicker also denied that the program was enacted as a trade barrier to protect a small number of businesses in a few states.
“What this is about is food safety for Americans in 50 states,” he said.
(Source: TheFishSite News Desk May 25, 2015)
AMBERJACK CLOSURE REMINDER
Fisherman are reminded that the recreational harvest of Greater Amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico will be closed from June 1 through July 31. When the season reopens, fishermen are also reminded that there is a 30-in fork length minimum size limit and a bag limit of one fish per person. For-hire captains and crew may not retain a bag limit while under charter.
________________________________________________________________ This information was compiled by Dave Burrage, Peter Nguyen, and Benedict Posadas. For more information, visit our office at 1815 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 39532 or telephone (228) 388-4710.
MSU Coastal Research and