Beaufort News

Federal cap on sea bass fishing worries local fishermen

A looming federal cap on black sea bass could have a ripple effect on an entire sector of the local economy, charter boat captain Bill Parker of Hilton Head Island-based Runaway Fishing Charters said Wednesday.

Fishing for black sea bass is important to Parker's livelihood, especially in the winter. But new proposed catch limits by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council could also damage tourism, tackle and bait suppliers, and other businesses connected to the fishing industry, Parker said.

Hilton Head Island Sportfishing Club President Dave Harter said the proposed restrictions on dolphin, wahoo and cobia leave commercial and recreational fishermen with few fishing opportunities. That could push anglers closer to shore and deplete the few species they're allowed to pursue, he said.

Parker will attend a hearing today in Pooler, Ga., -- one of five the council is holding in coastal areas -- but he said protesting the data-collection methods used to monitor over-fishing "won't matter a hill of beans."

He says the real fight is in Washington, D.C., where Congress in 2007 passed revisions to the Magnuson-Stevens Act requiring the council to set catch limits.

"I'm staying in contact with (Sen.) Lindsey Graham, (Sen.) Jim DeMint and (Rep.) Joe Wilson," Parker said "and anybody else who wants to help out. I'm telling them it's an emergency."