Gulf Coast Fisherman
FISHERMEN GET REPRIEVE FROM EPA DISCHARGE REGULATIONS
Last month, we alerted you to the possibility that new EPA regulations related to vessel discharges might become effective on December 19th if Congress did not act to extend the current exemption for fishing vessels. The President signed into law the "Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014," which includes the provision to extend for three years the current exemption for all fishing vessels of any size from the EPA NPDES discharge permit requirements. This was accomplished by a lot of industry folks working together for a very long time. So you can disregard the information we provided in the first article of last month’s Gulf Coast Fisherman. At the time we went to press, we were not sure how this issue would be resolved and we wanted you to be prepared for any eventuality. Sorry for any confusion.
REMINDER OF NEW SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR COMMERCIAL FISHING VESSELS
This is to remind the commercial fishing industry about safety and equipment requirements established by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012. The Acts made significant changes to Chapters 45 and 51 of Title 46 United States Code (USC) that will be reflected in amended regulations (Parts 28 and 42 of Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)). These new requirements are scheduled to go into effect by the date(s) set forth under the law. The two most pressing requirements are discussed below.
Mandatory Dockside Safety Examinations: Both Acts mentioned above amended 46 USC §4502(f) and directed that both State-registered and Federally-documented vessels that meet the following criteria, receive a safety examination no later than October 15, 2015, the date this requirement is scheduled to take effect. The criteria includes: operating beyond 3 nautical miles of the baseline of the U.S. territorial sea or the coastline of the Great Lakes, operating anywhere with more than 16 individuals on board (either inside 3 miles of the baseline or beyond 3 miles of the baseline), and fish tender vessels engaged in the Aleutian trade. Normally, the territorial sea baseline is the mean low water line along the coast of the United States. In Mississippi and Alabama, the baseline connects the offshore barrier islands and is marked by a magenta colored line on nautical charts (COLREGS line). These vessels will need to complete this dockside safety examination at least once every 5 years, however, some vessels, depending on their operation or areas of service, may be subject to a more frequent examination schedule. If you had your vessel examined recently, but the safety decal that was issued expires before the new requirement takes effect, you should have your vessel re-examined prior to October 15, 2015 if the above criteria applies. If you do not have a valid safety decal after October 15, 2015, you could be subject to operational controls by the U.S. Coast Guard and be forced to tie up until you get the exam. To help alleviate last minute exam scheduling backlogs, do not wait until the last minute to request an examination as there will likely be a rush on examination requests closer to the scheduled October 2015 deadline. To schedule a dockside safety exam in Mississippi or Alabama call 1-800-880-3193.
Survival Craft: The Acts also amended 46 USC §4502(b)(2)(B) by deleting the words “lifeboats or life rafts,”and replacing them with, “a survival craft that ensures that no part of an individual is immersed in water...”This means that all commercial fishing industry vessels operating beyond 3 nautical miles of the base line or the coastline of the Great Lakes will be required to carry a survival craft that keeps you out of the water (i.e., a lifeboat, inflatable life raft, or inflatable buoyant apparatus) in the event of an abandon ship need. Current life floats and buoyant apparatus are not designed to keep an individual out of the water when used in an emergency. This requirement for a survival craft, such as a lifeboat, inflatable life raft, or inflatable buoyant apparatus that keeps one out of the water, is scheduled to go into effect on February 16, 2016. Note that documented vessels will need actual cannister-type life rafts and state registered vessels can get by with other inflatable units such a satchel rafts without roofs. All must be Coast Guard certified.
MISSISSIPPI COMMERCIAL RED DRUM AND SPECKLED TROUT SEASONS
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) are reminding commercial fishermen that two fishing seasons open early in 2015. Red drum season opened at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2015. The commercial quota for this fish is 50,000 pounds. Once that quota is reached, MDMR will close the season. Spotted seatrout season opens at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 1, 2015. The commercial quota for seatrout also is 50,000 pounds, but it is split into two four-month seasons. The first season runs from February through May. If the 25,000-pound quota is met, the season will close and reopen June 1. If the 25,000-pound quota is not met before the end of May, the remaining quota will be added to the second season. The second season will end when the quota is reached. However, it will not extend past the end of September, whether or not the quota is met.
GULF SHRIMP LANDINGS
Analysis of NOAA data indicates that shrimp landings for November were the highest for any November since 2010 and the second highest since 2006. For the entire Gulf of Mexico, the 12.2 million pounds of shrimp landed was 3.0% below average November shrimp landings between 2002 and 2013 (12.6 million pounds), but was the most shrimp landed in the month of November since 2010 (also 12.6 million pounds).
In Louisiana, the 6.5 million pounds of shrimp landed was at the level of the historical average for November shrimp landings between 2002 and 2013 (6.5 million pounds), but was the highest volume November since 2006 (7.2 million pounds). For Alabama, the 1.0 million pounds of shrimp landed was 4.4% above the prior 12-year historic average (1.0 million pounds) and the biggest volume November since 2008 (1.7 million pounds). Like Alabama, landings on the West Coast of Florida (.5 million pounds) were the highest reported for any November since 2008. And in Texas, the 3.8 million pounds of shrimp landed were 2.0% below the prior 12-year historic average for the month of November (3.9 million pounds).
Total landings for the entire year through November in 2014 continue to be below average because of poor production in the first half of this year. For the entire Gulf, 105.7 million pounds of shrimp has been landed over the first eleven months of this year - 10.7% below the prior 12-year historic average (118.3 million pounds). This is the third straight year that the January to November landings volume has fallen below the prior year mark, declining from 110.8 million pounds in 2011 to 109.8 million pounds in 2012 then to 108.3 million pounds in 2013 and to 105.7 million pounds this year. Production in Texas in 2014, equaling 30.0 million pounds, is 22.5% below the prior 12-year historic average (38.8 million pounds). Production in Louisiana, equal to 53.7 million pounds, is 7.8% below the prior 12-year historic average (58.2 million pounds). However, in Alabama, the 11.9 million pounds of shrimp landed so far this year is a historic high and 34.3% above the 12-year historic average (8.8 million pounds).
As with prior months of strong landings, the ex-vessel prices reported by NOAA for November continue to be high. Fifteen of the twenty-one ex-vessel prices, reported for a total of seven different count sizes (U15 through 41-50) across three different regions, were higher than the previous record high levels reported in November 2013. In other words, with a few exceptions, ex-vessel prices reported for November 2014 were the highest reported by NOAA based on a review of data going back to 2001.
NEW STUDY SHOW TEDS ARE WORKING
The shrimping industry’s impact on Kemp’s ridley sea turtles is at an all-time low, according to a recent study by fisheries management expert Benny Gallaway, one of the presenters at the International Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Symposium that took place in Brownsville Nov. 18-19, 2014. At the same time, the number of turtles dying due to run-ins with shrimping vessels has risen — but only because there are more Kemp’s ridley out there than in the past, he said in an interview during the symposium.“The population is huge compared to what it was,” said Gallaway, president of LGL Ecological Research Associates Inc. “There are more of them — a lot more.”
The rebound in population was due to highly successful conservation efforts to save the species, including a federal mandate that turtle excluder devices (TEDs) be installed on shrimp trawlers. Also, the Gulf shrimp fleet has shrunk. The bad news is that the Kemp’s ridley nesting is once again in sharp decline, for reasons researchers are still puzzling over. This decline, which began after the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill in 2010, was the focus of the symposium. Amid all the bad news at the gathering, Gallaway, whose study examined all the possible reasons behind the decline, at least had good news for the shrimping industry: It’s not your fault.
Andrea Hance, executive director of the Texas Shrimp Association, said it’s a fact often at odds with a public perception that historically equates shrimping with dead sea turtles. The perception was justified once, but not since TEDs became mandatory, she said. “Were shrimpers killing turtles before TEDs? Yes. The problem is people haven’t heard the new information,” Everything is 15 years ago. There’s a big misconception, which is one of the hurdles that I’m trying to overcome. We’ve had these numbers for a while. We just don’t really have the avenues or the voice to let people know.” Gary Graham, Texas Sea Grant’s marine fisheries specialist, said the Kemp’s ridley’s comeback was thanks in large part to TEDs but also to conservation efforts to protect the Gulf beaches in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas that are the species’ principal nesting ground. “They go hand in hand,” he said.
________________________________________________________________ This information was compiled by Dave Burrage, Peter Nguyen, and Benedict Posadas. For more information, visit our office at 1815 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 39532 or telephone (228) 388-4710.
MSU Coastal Research and