Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Protections Approved for Dozens More Fish Species

PANACEA, FL - Florida fishermen along the Gulf of Mexico lost $12.3 million due to over-fishing in 2009, according to a new study by the PEW Charitable Trust Environmental Group. The report says fishermen could have had 32 percent more revenue if over-fished species had been at healthier levels.

Holly Binns, who heads the PEW Fisheries Project, says fishery protection is now on the right track, after the latest decision by the Federal Fishery Management Councils to set new catch limits on two dozen species, from snappers and groupers to royal red shrimp.

"One of the things you hear from fishermen is that they don't want to have additional regulations, but the councils heard from about 250 coastal businesses, anglers, marine scientists and conservation groups that this new approach to prevent over-fishing and get out ahead of problems is the right way to go."

Binns points out the fishing world has changed, as has the demand for fresh seafood, and fisheries management is vital to balance the supply with demand.

To see the root causes of over-fishing, all anyone needs to do is look around, she says.

"Think back to two decades ago. Since then, the popularity of recreational fishing has boomed, the demand for fresh local seafood has risen exponentially and technology has improved by leaps and bounds - we've got safer, faster boats and GPS and sonar technology."

The new rules for all federally-managed marine species are mandated by a federal law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. They must be in effect in 2011. 

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