This is a union of a pair of groups that have often been at odds over the years when it comes sharing the fish that are harvested from the sea, and it’s a union that is for the common good.
The newly formed Council for Sustainable Fishing combines recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen in a concerted effort to work together as a watchdog of federal fisheries management in the South Atlantic Region.
Wayne Mershon of Murrells Inlet, the president of the council and the driving force behind its inception, is a commercial fisherman who operates Kenyon Seafood.
Tom Swatzel, executive director of the council, has deep roots as a recreational fisherman, having worked at Capt. Dick’s in Murrells Inlet in many capacities, starting as a deck hand, then as a charter captain and eventually as owner.
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“The fishery allocation issues between commercial and recreational fishermen in the South Atlantic are fairly well settled, so there is no reason to not work together in an effort to increase overall annual catch limits, which benefits all fishermen, the coastal economy, and helps ensure more stable seafood availability to consumers,” said Mershon.
Swatzel also has intricate knowledge of the workings of federal fisheries management through six years served as a member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the decision-making body of fisheries management in the South Atlantic region.
The Council for Sustainable Fishing’s focus is clear right in its name – push for sustainable fishing for recreational and commercial fishermen alike, in order to provide fresh seafood for the public and to enable seafood related businesses to provide needed support for the economy in coastal areas, without negatively impacting fish stocks.
In short, the group is striving to maximize catch limits for fishermen but at limits that would ensure fish stocks are at healthy levels.
“The Council for Sustainable Fishing recognizes the importance of sustainable, healthy fisheries,’’ said Swatzel. ``We want to optimize catch limits where possible, through more frequent and timely stock assessments, based on better data.’’
The council’s board of directors hail from three states – South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida – and includes representatives from the food service industry and seafood dealers along with the recreational and commercial fishing industries.
“(Mershon) and the other founders recognized the need to unite fishing interests to have an impact on fishery management decisions,” said Swatzel. “It takes a united effort of all fishing interests to impact the federal fisheries management process and its bureaucracy.
“All of the fishing interests in the South Atlantic really have one mission -- to optimize annual catch limits to the extent possible and reduce unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations – which benefits both commercial and recreational sectors.’’
The council is a nonprofit membership-based organization with membership fees being used to fund advocacy efforts.
For more information or to receive the council’s e-mails and communications, visit www.sustainablefishing.org.