Grand Strand fishermen are fighting a proposal they say could put them out of business. A federal agency may close off thousands of square miles of the South Atlantic to all fishing.
A fisheries council is meeting right now, to consider extending a ban on red snapper fishing over nearly 10,000 square miles of the South Atlantic. Local fishermen say the ban would be an economic disaster for them, just to protect a species that isn't even all that popular around here.
Murrells Inlet boat captain Englis Glover is host of the fishing show "Reeling Up the Coast." He says he's all in favor of preserving resources, but is not convinced the red snapper needs to be protected with a ban. "It's tough for us to stop fishing for something when they're not giving us a viable proof that we don't need to be fishing for them."
Environmental groups say red snapper is being overfished, and a ban on fishing the species would give them a chance to recover. But the proposed ban would impact all bottom fishing up to 250 miles off shore, affecting other species much more popular in South Carolina than red snapper. "That means we can't target any fish because of one species and we don't catch them here as abundant as they do down south," said charter boat captain Robert Nagy.
Charter boat owners in Little River say there ought to be a better way to protect red snapper than simply banning all fishing. For example, size limits might work. "Anything under that size, you have to throw back, which to me, that should be enough to take care of the population," said boat captain Ricky Long.
Horry County Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing a fishing ban Tuesday night. Other local governments and chambers of commerce are expected to follow suit.
But Nagy worries their support may not be enough. "Once the federal government makes up their mind about doing something, they just go ahead and do it. They have no regards to us."
The charter boat captains say they could be forced out of business by the ban, even though only 11% of the national red snapper catch comes from South Carolina.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council is meeting in Georgia this week, to consider extending the ban on red snapper that's scheduled to end in June.
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