As congress is evaluating the regulations which determine how many of each type of fish can be caught every year, a coalition of local Tampa Bay groups is calling on legislators to address the growing problem of overfishing, and The Marine Fish Conservation Network, has released a new report, titled Shell game, how the federal government is hiding the mismanagement of our nations fisheries. Martha Collins is with the National Environmental Trust.

ACT-Collins “our Gulf of Mexico is not doing what they should, conflict is wreaking havoc on=fish and economy…�

The Magnusson-Stevens Act, or MSA, contains regulations about how much of any species of fish can be caught every year. But its developed using input from 8 regional fishery councils. Locally the gulf council in St Petersburg is responsible for setting total allowable catch levels for the entire Gulf of Mexico, for but Collins says they are failing to do their job properly.

ACT-Collins “the gulf council set the total 50% higher than reish panel, so they are not following the science, or protesting fish from being over fished..�

Collins says that out of 55 species, zero of them are considered to have healthy stocks in the Gulf of Mexico. All 55 are either overfished, or not even being assessed. Desiree Carlton with the Florida Public Interest Research Group says the National marine Fisheries Service allows over fishing on a third of the fish, which are already considered overfished.

ACT-Carlton “congress needs to take action to save snapper, etc. its brings in jobs, boaters,..�

The impacts of over fishing are than the following year, the catch limits are reached even sooner. Kyle Crawford with the international Big Fish Network, says that local businesses suffer when the catch limits are hit—last year many restaurants could no longer serve local grouper when the catch limit was hit.

ACT-Crawford “Fisherman are worried, you want to take you son fishing, if you have to catch 2 instead of 5 that’s a good trade off..�

ACT-Collins “The economic contribution is 5 billion..out of top 5 ports in gulf, Key West is number 2. bringing in 43 million. Total commercial is 193 million. Billions added that are dependent on healthy fish stocks.�

Carlton from Florida PIRG says closing fish stocks off is unnecessary, that if the science was respected and appropriate measures were taken, there would be enough fish for the entire year.

ACT-Carlton ‘Councils disregard science. Here in the gulf they set red snapper limits 2x higher that what makes sense. …Setting deadlines, and when they attempt to enforce limits they lack the tools..�

Collins says that much of the problem is that the regional councils are made up of fisherman and others who depend on fish economically, which has created a conflict of interest.

ACT-Collins “A problem with the system is that people running the fish stocks have a conflict of interest they are on the council and they are regulating the fish, so laws are not being enforced. It’s also why they refuse to listen to science, because of a conflict of interest…�

Kyle Crawford, the president of the International deep fish network, says that given the long term damage being done, it seems logical that the members of the council who’s livelihood depends of fish would want to keep sustainable numbers in the sea, but unfortunately, they are being pressured into thinking in the short term.

ACT-Kyle “If you just had a commercial interest they would be interested, but when they have to serve recreational fishermen, when you are serving on the council they don’t want a closure, but it comes in third place….no one wants to catch less fish or make less $$ this year, that’s the conflict�

The Marine Fish Conservation Network is calling on the public, especially people who fish, to contact their local representatives, especially Bill Young, Adam Putnam, Mike Bilirakis and Jim Davis, and ask them to co-sponsor reauthorization of house resolution 1431, the Magnuson-Stevens Act. A different reauthorization bill has been introduced by representatives Richard Pombo, Barney Frank, and Don Young. But Collins says that bill would weaken the definition of overfishing, and has no enforcement requirement.

ACT-Collins “Senator Ted Stevens, the language he has introduced is very good. We have a couple pf senators from eth north eats that want to keep the status quo. What happening is an overevaluation, they are taking the language..�

To view the Shell Game report, log onto

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