State legislature pushes back against federal efforts

April 13, 2023


Coastal South Carolina State Senators and avid outdoorsmen, Stephen Goldfinch and Chip Campsen, have introduced two resolutions over the last two weeks that call on the state’s congressional delegation to secure funding for state-led harvest data collection efforts and to assist in finding a better alternative to the recently proposed vessel speed restrictions.

“SCBFA appreciates the leadership of Sens. Goldfinch and Campsen, two great leaders who continue to be champions for the state’s boating and fishing industry,” said SCBFA President and CEO Gettys Brannon. “We continue to see great bipartisan efforts from members of the state legislature to ensure we preserve and protect boating and fishing, two pastimes that continue to have a huge impact on our state’s economy and its people.”

S.697 calls on the state’s congressional delegation to secure funding that would allow the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop a program for recreational offshore harvest data collection. 

Current federal policy only allows for one to two days of Red Snapper fishing.

Here are the key points from S.697

  • “Encourage DNR to develop a marine recreational offshore harvest data collection program to conserve marine fisheries while ensuring South Carolinians and those who visit our coast each year have access to our public trust resources.”
  • The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering a federal permit for offshore anglers in South Carolina in an effort “to improve their ability to count fish landed in the state.”
  • Boaters and anglers in South Carolina have more confidence in SCDNR counting fish populations and producing accurate, reliable data, rather than the National Marine Fisheries Service. 
  • States along the Gulf of Mexico have demonstrated the success of state-led data collection rather than federal efforts. State-led efforts provide more accuracy and more opportunity. 
  • The General Assembly “requests the South Carolina Congressional delegation identify seed funds from appropriations to the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop the program.”

S.712 encourages the state’s congressional delegation to assist in seeking alternative efforts to protect North Atlantic Right Whales while also protecting local economies along the coast and the state’s boating and fishing industry. 

The proposed restriction would impose a 10-knot speed restriction for nearly half the year out to 40 nautical miles for vessels 35 feet or greater.

SCBFA staunchly opposes the proposed restriction due to the lack of data, the safety threats it would cause, and the economic distress it would cause communities along the coast.

Here are the key points from S.712:

  • “There are significant concerns that the changes to the rule currently considered by the National Marine Fisheries Service are not based on the best available science, are unforeseeable, risk human safety, will not meaningfully protect right whales, and will have significant negative impacts on South Carolina’s anglers, boaters, the fishing and boating industry, the maritime shipping industry, and coastal economies if implemented.”
  • With advancements in technology, the federal government should move its focus to real-time surveillance and information for boaters and anglers to ensure they know where the species is located and the proper way to approach an encounter. 
  • The South Carolina congressional delegation should work to secure funding for the implementation of real-time monitoring technology. 
  • The delegation should also urge the Secretary of Commerce to pause the implementation of the vessel strike reduction rule until real-time monitoring is implemented and until boaters and anglers can work alongside the National Marine Fisheries Service in these efforts. 

“At the end of the day, it’s all about common sense and ensuring boaters and anglers have a seat at the table which is what these two resolutions boil down to,” said Brannon. “We support good science and true measures to protect the North American Right Whale and sustain healthy snapper counts, yet neither of the current federal policies achieve that.”

For more information on how to contact your state legislator or congressman, visit www.scstatehouse.gov/legislatorssearch.php

Want to stay aware of the efforts SCBFA is taking to advance boating and fishing in South Carolina? Become a member today for only $25/year to secure access to exclusive information. 

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