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Fishing lobby wants to save red grouper

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002


This time, it's over red grouper.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery will vote during the week of July8 on what to do with this severely stressed fishery.

The Coastal Conservation Association issued a "grass-roots alert" to members in hopes it can convince the council to move commercial longline boats to outside the 50th fathom line.

"There is clearly a problem with red grouper," said Ted Forsgren, the executive director of the CCA.

"Longlines kill indiscriminately; not just red, but black and gag grouper, too."

The CCA, which organized thousands of the state's recreational fishermen to ban commercial nets from inshore waters in 1994, hopes to have similar success in moving the commercial longlines.

Commercial longline boats typically lay miles of line baited with thousands of hooks.

They come back later to retrieve their catch, most of which is dead.

Conservationists say boats cannot release undersized fish and want the fishery to move toward rod and reel, or bandit boats, which can be more selective.

Federal fishery managers want to reduce grouper mortality by 45 percent. To do so, they proposed a four-month ban for recreational and commercial fishermen.

But the CCA and other groups fought the proposal, saying sport fishermen should not be penalized for the excesses of the commercial industry.

So the CCA rallied the troops, urging members to e-mail or fax council members before the July meeting.

To speak out on either side, contact the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council by phone at (813) 228-2815, by fax at (813) 225-7015 or by e-mail at gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org.

SHARK TAGGING: Researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota are asking fishermen to let them know if they catch a tagged shark.

Marine biologists placed acoustic transmitters and yellow tags on some blacktip and bonnethead sharks in the Charlotte Harbor and Terra Ceia Bay areas this summer.

Tagged sharks have a yellow external tag left of the dorsal fin. Another sign is black stitches on the underside of the shark.

If caught, fishermen should record the tag number, location and approximate size of the shark then release it.

If they report this information to Mote, they will be entered into the Lab's Shark Tag Lottery this fall. The winner receives $300.

If a tagged animal is caught and killed, remove the transmitter and send it to the lab so it can be used again.

Researchers will use the data collected to study and monitor sharks' movement and use of habitat.

The biologists hope to determine if different species of sharks use the same habitat and if so, how they interact.

The research is in its fourth year in Terra Ceia Bay and the first for the Charlotte Harbor area.

The tagged sharks in Charlotte Harbor can be found in Southern Pine Island Sound near Tarpon Bay and James City.

Send all information to Michelle Heupel by mail at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236; e-mail at mheupel@mote.org; or phone at (941) 388-4441 and (800) 691- 6683.

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