INTRO: Congress has approved a thirty-five million dollar buyout of commercial long line fishermen on the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first time that there has been a buyout in federal waters in this area. The aim is to stop unplanned bans of fishing in the future. Because of over fishing, on November fifteenth of this year, a ban on red Grouper went into effect. A group of fishermen lobbied congress for the buyout, and suggested that with fewer boats in the fleet, there could be a year-round fishery. Earlier this month, congress appropriated $350,000 to finance a 35 million dollar buyout which would be optional. Today, WMNF’s Mark Antokas was at a fisherman’s meeting in Madeira Beach, and files this report.

Script: About one hundred fishermen and women crowded into the meeting room with questions and concerns about this buyout plan. The plan would loan money at a reduced rate to fishermen who want to remain in the fishery to buy out permits from others who want to leave. The figure of about one hundred fifty thousand dollars per boat was bandied about. Roy Crabtree is Regional administrator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He explains the intricacies of the plan. Roll Tape:

Bob Spaeth, the Executive Director of the Southern Offshore Fishing Association held the meeting to gauge fishermen’s reaction and take comments. Spaeth said that the ban on commercial fishing of Grouper has hurt the industry. Roll Tape:

Carl Morgan has been fishing for thirty-five years. He says that Government is the problem. Roll Tape:

Rodney Tallerman is originally from Barbados. He is a long liner for red grouper and feels that the limit on grouper is unfair. Roll Tape:

William ward, is a commercial fisherman and wholesale dealer. He is a member of an advisory panel for the federal government. He says that the buyout could hurt his business. Roll Tape:

Scott Dagger has been fishing for seventeen years; he says that even though most fishermen don’t know anything else, the money might help them re-train. Roll Tape:

SOCK-OUT: So far, nothing but the funding has been decided. None of the fishing industries needs have been worked out. A limited entry program would need to be worked out, and the scrapping of the boats would be mandatory. The gulf Coast fisheries time line is up to two years. This is Mark Antokas for WMNF, radio news.

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