Outdoors: General Assembly against vessel monitoring systems

04/25/2013 4:04 PM

04/26/2013 11:00 AM

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council asked for public input regarding its vessel monitoring system proposal, and the council got it – from the South Carolina General Assembly no less.

The General Assembly approved a resolution on Tuesday opposing any vessel monitoring system (VMS) on commercial snapper-grouper boats fishing off the South Carolina coast.

The resolution, authored and sponsored by freshman State Representative Stephen Goldfinch (R-Murrells Inlet) was unanimously approved by the S.C. House of Representatives and Senate.

At a March meeting in St. Simons Island, Ga., the SAFMC voted 10-3 to move forward with hearings and requested public input on potential VMS requirements for vessels with a Federal South Atlantic Commercial Snapper Grouper Permit. The proposal is Amendment 30 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan.

VMS is a satellite-based program installed on vessels to assist with monitoring vessel movement and fishing activity in real time, particularly in marine protected areas (MPA) and area closures. The units would track the boats 24 hours a day whether at dock or at sea.

“We don’t like the federal government meddling in our fisheries - that’s my opinion of the basis of (the resolution),” said Goldfinch. “When we start meddling with vessel monitoring systems for marine protected areas, that’s just going too far. That is an extreme invasion of privacy.”

A VMS consists of a mobile transceiver unit placed on the vessel that is linked via satellite between the vessel and a shore-based satellite monitoring system located at a NOAA Fisheries facility.

Such systems are being used in the South Atlantic rock shrimp fishery and in the Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fishery.

But Goldfinch and his General Assembly cohorts are opposed to the proposal for a number of reasons.

The systems to be installed on boats cost between $3,100 to $3,800 and the fishermen would be responsible for the initial purchase, although federal funds are available to reimburse fishermen for up to $3,100. Fishermen would also be responsible for any costs associated with installation, monthly usage fees and maintenance of the units.

“VMS is extremely economically hazardous to our commercial fishermen,” said Goldfinch. “They are already extremely disadvantaged. They’ve got the Asian fisheries (to compete with). This would add the installation fee, yearly service fee – all a mandate from the federal government so they can keep track of them and the fishermen would have to pay for it.

“It’s ludicrous. We don’t want to add any more economic burden to them. We want to support our commercial and recreational fishermen and that’s what I intend to do.”

The S.C. General Assembly’s resolution has no legal impact, but is in essence a unified statement of opinion on the issue.

“It doesn’t have any binding effect,” said Goldfinch. “It puts pressure where it needs to go.”

SAFMC scheduled five public hearings on the issue, and three have already taken place. Details of the remaining hearings follow: *April 23, Hilton Garden Inn, 5265 International Blvd., North Charleston, 5:30-7 p.m. *April 25: Doubletree by Hilton New Bern, 100 Middle Street, New Bern, N.C., 4-7 p.m. The SAFMC also is accepting written comments on the issue until 5 p.m., May 3 via mail to Robert Mahood, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; fax at 843-769-4520 or email at SGAmend30Comments@safmc.net.

The SAFMC also is accepting written comments on the issue until 5 p.m., May 3 via mail to Robert Mahood, SAFMC, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; fax at 843-769-4520 or email at SGAmend30Comments@safmc.net.

The public hearing in North Charleston will be held in conjunction with a meeting of the Council’s Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel and will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

GSSWAA Flounder Tournament

The 12th annual Spring Flounder Tournament, staged by the Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Association, will be held Saturday in Murrells Inlet.

The tournament features a $1,500 first-place prize for the largest single flounder weighed in, with the top seven fish receiving prizes. The heaviest three-flounder aggregate earns $500.

The Captain’s Meeting is set for 6 p.m. this evening, at The Beaver Bar, located at the county line, on U.S. Hwy. 17 Business. Fishing begins at 6 a.m.with weigh-in set for 3 to 5 p.m. in the parking lot adjacent to the public boat ramp in the inlet. Entry fee is $45 for adults and $20 for youth anglers age 14 and under.

For information, call Bill Cash (843-237-9987) or Chick McDaniels (843-651-2076).

Georgetown Meatfish Slam

The 5th annual Georgetown Meatfish Slam will be held May 3-4 out of Georgetown Landing Marina, targeting wahoo, dolphin and tuna.

Boats can fish one of two days, May 3 or 4. Entry and payment of $250 entry fee must be completed by 6:30 p.m. on May 2 at the marina.

Tournament within a tournament categories include Wahoo, Dolphin, Tuna, Aggregate and Big Dog Aggregate.

Proceeds go to Kids’ Chance of South Carolina. For more information, call 546-1776.

Crazy Sister Offshore Challenge

Weather continues to play havoc with this tournament scheduled out of Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet.

For the second time, the event has been postponed and will now be held on May 4-5. Boats can fish one of the two days, Captains Choice.

The tournament features a total purse of $15,000 based on a minimum of 30 boats entered plus a tournament-within-a-tournament level is offered. Targeted species include wahoo, dolphin and tuna.

Entry fee is $500. Captains Meeting is set for April 26, at the marina and Wicked Tuna Grill on the south end of the Marshwalk. For more information, call 843-995-7446.

The tournament will coincide with a benefit for Anna Burroughs, a cancer patient from Murrells Inlet, to be held May 4, 3-7 p.m. at Wicked Tuna, located adjacent to the marina.

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