State Rep. Goldfinch Introduces Bill to Take Black Sea Bass From Fed

Members of the South Carolina Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA-SC) have been working with freshman Republican state Representative Stephen Goldfinch to do whatever’s possible to help ensure access for recreational anglers to fish stocks that have been closed due to draconian federal management measures.

Representative Goldfinch of Murrells Inlet immediately took advantage of his position on the South Carolina House Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee to address some of the critical issues faced by South Carolina and other South Atlantic states. Rep. Goldfinch’s legislation, co-authored by Reps. Hardwick, H.A. Crawford, Huggins, Hardee, Clemmons, Vick, Finlay, Chumley, Hamilton, Herbkersman, Hiott, Hixon, V.S. Moss, Owens, Pitts, Sottile, Wells and Wood makes black sea bass stay open in state waters (out to 3 miles offshore) during federal closures.

The bill is H3735, and can be viewed at www.scstatehouse.gov/sess120_2013-2014/bills/3735.htm.

In 2009, South Carolina held a voter referendum that amended the state constitution to say that hunting and fishing in the state was a constitutional right for its people, and the right to hunt and fish within the state and to harvest wildlife should only be subject to the laws of the state legislature, which were to promote sound wildlife conservation and management. According to RFA-SC, Rep. Goldfinch’s legislation pivots off this, and it should send a clear message to South Carolina fishermen and the federal government about where the state stands on managing its resources properly.

In 2012, member states in the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) saw their recreational black sea bass season closed after only 90 days. The traditionally offshore species is now being caught in inshore waters, and its overpopulation is threatening popular nearshore and inshore species like sheepshead, spotted sea trout and red drum.

“Black sea bass have been rebuilt in every sense of the word for quite some time now,” said RFA-SC member Wes Covington. “We started seeing black sea bass become more and more prevalent about 10 years ago due to the catch limits put into place in the 1990’s, and now it seems we’re being punished for those limits not working fast enough.”

“The science clearly has not caught up to what we’re seeing on the water, and the SAFMC is telling us they don’t have the flexibility to do anything other than administratively close the fishery earlier and earlier every year,” Covington said, while pointing at black sea bass as one of the clearest examples of federal mismanagement of a coastal fishery as there is.

“Now that the issue with these fisheries, black sea bass in particular, has become so well-known, and the season is rumored to be even shorter this year, I am very hopeful this legislation will be signed by Governor Haley in time for this summer,” said Rep. Goldfinch. “We need to get people fishing again. Fishing is a huge part of our coastal economy.”

This will not be the only help that RFA-SC sees from Rep. Goldfinch. More discussions for more helpful legislation are underway, and RFA-SC’s membership will remain instrumental in supporting the elected officials like Rep. Goldfinch who champion the RFA mission.

Covington also noted that captains Keith Logan and Mark Brown have both been working as hard as possible to obtain more funding for improved black sea bass data, but it has become apparent that NOAA Fisheries and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) specifically, are only interested in more money for their catch shares campaign.

“Our state chapter members are getting more and more active, especially in the South Atlantic and Gulf States where this fisheries management train wreck is destroying angler access,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “We plan on putting more pressure on Congress to take up action on behalf of fishermen, but efforts by state chapters like the RFA-SC can really help change the system nationwide.”

Logo courtesy Recreational Fishing Alliance

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