Annual meeting is about safety and rights
Members of the Southeastern Fisheries Association gathered in Key Largo last week to discuss legislative changes, industry regulations and how to protect their harvesting rights.
“The recreational side is a lot more powerful than us,” said SFA Executive Director Bob Jones. “They get about 73 percent of all the finfish allocated in the South Atlantic. We are just trying to hold onto the allocations that we have because without us, most folks in the world wouldn’t be able to enjoy fresh seafood.”
Organized in 1952, the group lobbies on behalf of the commercial fishermen who operate in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. About 90 percent of their membership is in Florida and they alternate their annual meeting between Orlando (convenient and centrally located) with Monroe County (for obvious reasons).
“Monroe County is number one in the state for producing seafood,” Jones said. “The boys down there are good and they know what they are doing.”
He is referring to members such as the Gary Graves and Greg D’Agostino from Keys Fisheries (Marathon), Colleen Quirk with Fishbusterz (Key West) and the Hill brothers from Key Largo Fisheries.
The two-day event included networking, luncheons and roundtable discussions with those making the biggest impact on the lives of the commercial fishing industry – like FWC Director Nick Wiley.
“I know how much you guys believe in the science and that you want good science,” he said during a round table discussion that covered all sorts of issues from lobster mini-season (which isn’t going anywhere) to tightening the criteria for those with a wholesale fish license.
“If you are going to give someone a wholesale license to sell to the public they need to know how to handle the product,” said Tom Hill.
JASON KOLER/Keys Weekly
The roundtable discussions between regulators and commercial fishermen included state Representative Holly Raschein, left, and Fish and Wildlife Director Nick Wiley, third from right.