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HomeNewsArchivesArea Fishermen Call for Unity, Changes to Restricted Fishing Areas

Area Fishermen Call for Unity, Changes to Restricted Fishing Areas

June 22, 2006 – During an informal meeting called by the Caribbean Fishery Management Council (CFMC), local fishermen this week were selected to serve on a working group that will revisit restrictions on the "no-take" zone on St. Croix's East End.
During the meeting, several fishermen took the opportunity to air their grievances about the closure of prime fishing waters around St. Croix and to call for fishermen to unite.
Selected to serve on the working group were Edward Schuster, Jose Sanchez and Tom Daley, all local St. Croix fishermen. Also selected to the group was Jimmy Magner, president of the St. Thomas Fishermen's Association. Other members making up the group will be one CFMC member, a CFMC staff member, a representative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one representative from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
The group will generate ideas and come up with new proposed amendments to govern the no-take zone.
A large percentage of fishable water around St. Croix was closed or restricted after a series of meetings held by the CFMC in 2005. The CFMC restrictions included the closure of Lang Bank, located east of St. Croix, which fishermen said is the richest nearby fishing grounds.
The restrictions were in keeping with a 2003 executive order, which establishes the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and includes the sea floor extending 200 nautical miles away from all U.S. possessions and trust territories.
The council says the restrictions are necessary to "curb overfishing, allow for the long-term rebuilding of fish populations that are overfished or undergoing overfishing, and … to maintain healthy fisheries."
The informal meeting was called in response to letters received from fishermen and members of the Senate, according to council member Virdin Brown. "We recognize that St. Croix has different issues than the other islands," Brown said.
"We are making more of an effort to look at the socio-economic impact of communities," said Miguel Rolon, the council's executive director. Rolon also said there is enormous pressure from the federal government to protect the nation's natural resources.
Only about 10 fishermen were present at the meeting, which was held Tuesday at the Caravelle Hotel meeting room.
Sens. Juan Figueroa-Servile, Neville James and Ronald Russell also attended the meeting. The senators asked the CFMC to exempt St. Croix from any fishing restrictions, citing economic hardships due to lack of tourism, pollution on the south side of the island, among others.
The dismal showing prompted remarks from several fishermen.
It's hard to get a quorum," Magner said talking about similar problems with attendance he has in St. Thomas. "But we need to stand up together side by side."
Daley also called for St. Croix fishermen to unite. "We need to have an association so we can speak with one voice," Daley said. Daley spoke about the hardship fishermen have to endure while earning a living. "They should have protected us more," Daley said of the local government. "Our future was forged with Hovensa and Vialco [the former aluminum plant]."
Sanchez and other fisherman said customers will not buy fish caught on the South Shore. "They turn their back," said Sanchez.
In earlier meetings, both DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett and Delegate Donna M. Christensen testified that data collected to support the closings did not represent the fish population of the Virgin Islands (See "Fishery Council Hears from Residents and Officials on Proposed Restrictions").
The CFMC will meet in August on St. Croix to give members of the working group further instructions. Scientists will come and talk to the group regarding the fishing population, according to the CFMC.
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