This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA03NMF4410028.

NOAA logoNEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: AS APPROPRIATE
CONTACT: WAYNE E. SWINGLE

MARINE CONSERVATION NETWORK PRESS RELEASE PROVIDES INCORRECT STATEMENTS ON GULF FISHERIES

Tampa, Florida July 11, 2003 - The Marine Conservation Network (MCN), a consortium of environmental groups, distributed a news release titled "Horrors of the Deep" in which they find fault with management of fisheries for each region of the country. In their discussion of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries there are incorrect statements according to Wayne Swingle, Executive Director of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council based in Tampa, Florida. The first of these incorrect statements is titled Mismanagement Scary Fact which states: "Disaster relief, necessitated by poor management (underlined for emphasis) and international competition, to the shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico has cost American taxpayers $35 million." The first incorrect statement that says the shrimp stocks are mismanaged is definitely a false statement. None of the three stocks (brown, white, and pink) of shrimp has been overfished in the last 40 years according to scientific data presented by the National Marine Fisheries Service each year. These stocks, which are estuarine dependent, are jointly managed by the states and the Gulf Council.

Dr. Richard Leard, the Councilís Chief Scientist, pointed out that the Gulf shrimp industry is this nationís single most valuable fishery with a 10-year (1991-2000) average annual landings of 176 million pounds (total weight) valued to the fishermen at approximately $492 million. Because most of the shrimp are consumed in restaurants, the annual value to the nationís Gross National Product (GNP) is many times greater than the landed value.

The reason Congress granted disaster relief to the shrimp industry in the Gulf was that the U.S. market was flooded by foreign shrimp, principally raised in ponds, which depressed the prices paid to domestic fishermen. Mr. Swingle indicated that part of this appeared to be dumping of shrimp found unacceptable in the European Union market because antibiotics were used in culturing these shrimp. He also pointed out that the MCN press release incorrectly reported Gulf fishermen were granted $35 million, whereas the correct figure was $17 million.

The MCN press release also reports that Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) designed to reduce the bycatch of juvenile red snapper incidentally caught by the shrimp trawls are not excluding 60 percent of the red snapper. The press release referenced a figure in the article as evidence that less than 60 percent is occurring. Mr. Swingle pointed out that the figure included in the article depicts the trawl bycatch for red snapper for a period ending in 1997, and BRDs were not required in shrimp trawls until May 1998. Therefore, the figure cited as evidence does not support their statement. Mr. Swingle stated that surely MCN personnel drafting the release were competent enough to recognize that the figure was improperly cited as evidence. He pointed out the misrepresentation of facts was of a concern to him as they appeared to be a deliberate attempt by MCN to mislead the public.

Mr. Swingle also pointed out that a reduction of total allowable catch for red snapper of 3.0 million pounds as proposed by the MCN would probably devastate the charter vessel industry. Mr. Bob Zales, II, Vice President of the Gulfwide Association of Finfish Fishermen (GAFF), concurred and pointed out that the portion of this industry based from the Florida Panhandle through Texas is highly dependent on trips targeting red snapper. He related that the red snapper season has already been reduced by six months by actions taken to rebuild this stock, and further reductions would result in business failure for many charter vessels.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is 1 of 8 regional fishery management councils that were established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council prepares fishery management plans that are designed to manage fishery resources in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. 

This news release, and other Council news releases, can be viewed at the Councilís web site at http://www.gulfcouncil.org. In addition, Council press releases may be received via e-mail by sending a blank e-mail message to pressreleases@gulfcouncil.org with SUBSCRIBE as the subject.

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