Fishermen's meeting deemed a success

Being able to catch and eat fresh seafood is what tourists on the Grand Strand have come to expect, as do a room of 50 plus fisherman who depend on going out to sea.

But with stricter standards, many are finding it hard to survive.

Boat captains, commercial fisherman and recreational fisherman from Calabash all the way down to Murrells Inlet came together Thursday night to fight back against standards they say are killing their livelihood.

"The federal government is taking actions to literally take our right to fish our oceans away from us," said Gary Whiteleather, a recreational fisherman and member of Seacoast Anglers.

Many of those actions fall under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act originally created in 1976.

It was renewed 20 years later, and reauthorized in 2006 with the goal of ending overfishing by 2011.

It's officially up for renewal in five years, but this group is not waiting that long for changes.

They say the regulations aren't scientific and are based on old data.

Instead of only allowing certain fish to be caught during a handful of months, they want to see it handled differently.

"Fish can be better properly managed by limiting the number of fish caught by species by individual and to regulate the size at which you can take a fish," said Whiteleather.

"Our next step is to talk to our congressman and get him involved, so that we can get some bills introduced into Congress, so we can get some this stuff overturned," added Captain Keith Logan, organizer of Thursday night's meeting.

The fisherman also say the way the government determines if overfishing is happening is flawed within itself. They say if that doesn't change, it will impact everyone, whether you like seafood or not.

"In an economy where every job is important, our government is actively killing our jobs," said Whiteleather.

Now that the fisherman have come to a consensus, they plan submit the changes they would like to see to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

"We've made history tonight, probably the first time it's ever happened in many of the states that the commercial, recreational, charter guys got together and were able to walk away and agree upon something," said Captain Logan.

They also hope to get those outside the industry involved, including several local leaders who were at the meeting.

Not only does the fishing industry play an important role in the economy, there's also a stake in tourism.

One million visitors come to the Grand Strand each year on fishing trips.