Public hearings will cover potential changes to Caribbean fisheries management


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The Caribbean Fishery Management Council will have public hearings and scoping meetings in the territory next week, as the council eyes potential changes to the management plans for federal fisheries in the area.

"We just wanted to publicize them so people can come and have a voice," said Allison Garrett, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

In the territory, the meetings are scheduled from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday at the Windward Passage Hotel on St. Thomas, and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. June 24 at the Buccaneer Hotel and Resort on St. Croix.

The meetings will feature discussion on two separate matters.

The first one is a proposal to amend the existing Caribbean Fishery Management Plan by adding a mechanism that will allow for adjustments in annual catch limits based on whether or not a species is still subject to overfishing, said Maria Lopez, a fishery biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The public hearing portion of the meetings, which will run from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. each night, is devoted to accepting public comment on this draft comprehensive amendment from fishers, members of the general public, and representatives of local agencies, according to information about the meetings from the National Fisheries Management Service.

The second topic - and the item for discussion during the "scoping meeting" portion of the evening - is the timing of accountability measures in the Caribbean areas.

Typically, if the landings for a particular species exceeds the annual catch limit for one year, the following year, the season is shortened by the necessary number of days, counting back from year-end, to reduce the number of landings and compensate for the overage, Lopez said.

"Fishers have expressed to the Council that the timing of these closures results in negative socio-economic impacts," information about the meetings states.

Now, officials are proposing to develop a mechanism that allows them to establish closure dates other than the standard way of counting back from year's end if annual catch limits are exceeded.

According to the announcement, there are several approaches that the council could consider, and they are looking for more ideas from the public.

The scoping portion of the meetings is scheduled from 8:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. each evening.

In addition to the meetings in the territory, the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council is having similar meetings next week in Puerto Rico.

For more information, go to www.caribbeanfmc.com.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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