Suncoast Waterkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance strongly support community-level commercial fisheries and their traditions, but oppose unsustainable modes of harvesting, such as draggers and factory trawlers. The controversial net ban of 1995 sacrificed an entire generation of home-grown fishers, left boats rotting at their docks and changed a way of life forever. While the ban overtly favored sportfishing over commercial fishing, history will probably agree that it had a positive effect on fish stocks, and left some modes of subsistence fishing untouched, such as longlining and cast-netting, today the principal method of catching mullet. Crabbing remains intact, and stonecrabbing, in particular, is sustainable because the harvest does not involve taking the animal.
Mullet remains an underutilized resource, and we would support an initiative to retain more of the catch in the community instead of selling it overseas or discarding it, curing the roe into high-value bottarga and marketing smoked mullet to a wider audience, keeping economic value in Gulf communities.
We support shellfish farming, in particular, because the clams, scallops and oysters feed on their natural diet, and the harvest creates jobs. The bottom habitat remains unchanged.
We believe that many tons of bycatch from stonecrabbing and shrimping are being wasted, and we support initiatives to retain and market bycatch, such as octopus and oil fish. We also support marketing and consumption of exotic, formerly waste cuts of fish, such as snapper collars and tuna ribs.
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna migrate and spawn in an area of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill happened just as the tuna were on their way up the Gulf. It remains to be seen what the impact will have been, but we are certain it won’t be positive. For the sake of whales, tuna and other pelagic fish, as well as the entire food web, and the communities that depend on it, SunCoast Waterkeeper will continue to oppose oil development in the Gulf.