Fishermen meeting focuses on saying "no" to catch shares

Three weeks after their initial meeting at a local restaurant, a group of concerned fishermen now has major leaders behind their cause.

Captain Keith Logan heads up the group and says he's been in communication with Senator Jim DeMint's office.

Thursday night, Tom Keegan with Congressman Tim Scott's office attended the meeting to listen to their concerns.

At the center of the battle is the Magnusson Stevenson Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Under it, they aren't allow to catch certain fish during certain times of the year - right now fishing for black sea bass is not allowed.

Many say this is based on bad data.

"Even the biologists that work for them admit in public forums the data is not accurate, yet we're forced to live with their decisions," said fisherman Stuart Ballard.

In addition to catch limits, Capt. Logan and others are against catch shares that may be coming to our area.

Catch shares gives exclusive rights to catch a certain poundage of a species of fish.

It's already in effect in the Gulf, New England, the Pacific, and Alaska.

"Now they're all suffering from it. In fact, one gentleman has moved to the Myrtle Beach area. He was pushed out of business last year, been doing it 30 years," added Logan.

Many in the crowd believe adopting catch shares will lead to consolidation and privatization of the ocean.

"75% of the commercial people fishing right now probably won't be able to fish if this goes through. It'll be confined to basically a few industrial fleets," added Ballard.

There is some good news for the fishermen concerning catch shares. Earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to not fund catch shares research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If funding is eventually passed, NOAA still has to get fishermen to agree to catch shares before they can be imposed.

Members of this group plan to attend a South Atlantic Fisheries Council meeting in Georgia next month to present a unified voice on catch limits.