TAMPA (CN) - A fishing group says the federal ban on amberjack fishing is based on a "fatally flawed" statistical survey. The industry claims the Nov. 9 closure of the greater amberjack fishery in the Gulf of Mexico is not based on the best available science and violates a congressional mandate to redesign the flawed survey.
The Fishing Rights Alliance, a coalition of fishermen, bait and tackle providers, dive shops and marina owners, challenged the National Marine Fisheries Service's recent closure in Federal Court.
The statistical survey, begun in 1979, uses dockside counts and phone interviews to gather data on fish capture. The system was never intended to provide real-time data, the lawsuit states, since it lacks an adequate amount of counts, does not target registered anglers and failed to develop a weather corrective factor.
Congress in 2006 found that the survey was flawed, and ordered the Fisheries Service to develop a "comprehensive, universal sampling frame with national coverage" by 2009. The industry claims the congressional directive included the formation of an independent committee, which has not occurred.
The industry says greater amberjack recreational season closure, which runs through the end of the year, violates the Administrative Procedure Act and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act. Represented by Craig Berman of St. Petersburg, the alliance seeks unspecified, appropriate relief.
The greater amberjack is a popular game fish found in rocky reefs and shipwrecks of subtropical zones around the world. Adult fish are opportunistic predators, weighing 40 pounds or less. The U.S. government has implemented conservation management of the Gulf of Mexico population since 1998.
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