The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is embarking on a transformative journey in the world of fishing technology, considering the year-round adoption of "ropeless" fish trap gear in the black sea bass fishery spanning from the Carolinas to Florida. This pioneering approach holds the promise of allowing fishermen to sustain their operations, even in the face of seasonal closures implemented to safeguard the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from the perils of entanglement in fishing gear.
This move follows a rigorous and comprehensive three-year testing phase conducted under an experimental fishery permit issued by the council. The ultimate objective is to transition towards permitting the continuous use of pop-up fish pot gear throughout the year. The seasonal closures, initially introduced in 2017 to protect migrating right whales, have posed a challenge for the fishing industry. However, the adaptation of pot fisheries to employ on-demand gear, characterized by the absence of traditional vertical lines and the inclusion of buoys that can be summoned by fishermen for seamless retrieval, has demonstrated significant promise throughout the experimental fishery permit phase.
While the current permit is slated to expire in April 2025, the council is currently actively engaged in the process of making on-demand gear usage permissible even during seasonal closures, with a target date of full implementation set for 2025. The most recent findings and results from testing this cutting-edge gear were unveiled in August, and there is widespread support for its inclusion as part of the framework amendment process.
The advantages of on-demand gear are multifaceted and compelling for fishermen. It offers the potential for access to closed fishing areas when fish are more abundant closer to the shore, leading to higher market prices and reduced fuel costs. Furthermore, it enhances safety by allowing fishing closer to the shore. Importantly, it's worth noting that incorporating on-demand gear does not entail the removal of seasonal closures. Instead, it provides an option for fishermen who opt for this technology to continue fishing within these closures, while those who prefer traditional gear can still operate outside these boundaries, ensuring a balance between conservation and industry sustainability.
Source: National Fisherman (September 17, 2023). South Atlantic council opens door to ‘ropeless’ fish trap gear. https://bit.ly/3PKXM7E
Picture: Ashored's ROC gear