Holly Binns, a project manager with the Pew Environment Group, issued the following statement today in response to the Department of Commerce's final approval of Amendment 17B—a plan to save nine dwindling fish species in the U.S. South Atlantic.
“This conservation plan is an important first step toward saving fish species in need of protection. Two of these species—Warsaw grouper and speckled hind—are critically imperiled and it is urgent that we act now to save them. Warsaw grouper can weigh up to 400 pounds and grow to eight feet but their population has plummeted to just 6 percent of healthy levels.
“This recovery plan is part of a larger effort to help end overfishing, which has taken a toll on many southeast species. Coupled with the recently approved protections for the severely depleted red snapper, the plan is putting us on the right track toward a much healthier ocean ecosystem, robust fishing and recreational opportunities for the future.”
Background: Amendment 17B sets annual catch limits on nine species, including several grouper species, such as snowy, gag, red and black grouper. It also closes an ocean area to fishing for six additional species in water deeper than 240 feet to protect the critically imperiled Warsaw grouper and speckled hind, which are frequently caught by accident in these depths when fishermen target other species. This closure is east of the 40-fathom line, an area extending from 25 to 100 miles off the coast to 200 miles offshore from central North Carolina to south Florida.
All fishing for Warsaw grouper and speckled hind is prohibited in all waters. In the deep-water area, fishing also is prohibited for snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper and silk snapper. These fish make up less than 1 percent of recreational catch in southeast federal waters. Some of these fish also are found west of the 40-fathom line where catch still would be permitted.
For a map of this closed area and more details about the Amendment 17B plan, please see our fact sheet (PDF).
The new red snapper rules are in a separate fishery recovery plan, Amendment 17A. For background on that plan and those new rules, see a summary.