Friday, December 6, 2013
The mid-Atlantic fishery has gotten a boost with the formation of an advocacy group with its roots in Murrells Inlet, and the group has lost no time in praising area lawmakers.
Tom Swatzel, a Murrells Inlet businessman and Republican activist, has been named executive director of the Council for Sustainable Fishing, a nonprofit still in its formative stages.
On Wednesday, Swatzel praised Reps. Stephen Goldfinch, R-District 108 and Peter McCoy, R-District 115 for their letter to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council opposing additional no-fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
“We thank Reps. Goldfinch and McCoy for standing up for fishing interests and the coastal economy and their recognition that there is simply not enough scientific information to justify any additional deep-water Marine Protected Areas in the South Atlantic,” Swatzel wrote
The council was organized to protect not only the fishing concerns, but to ensure that all three primary groups affected by federal regulations — commercial and recreational fishers and consumers — “band together in a united effort to optimize and sustain fishing opportunities through increased catch limits, more accurate and timely fishery management data, and to fight unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations,” Wayne Mershon, Murrells Inlet seafood dealer and president of the council, said in a news release.
The group’s initial efforts are aimed at lifting the limits on southeast Atlantic fishing, especially because the government-sponsored South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering additional protected areas, Swatzel said.
He noted that the Council for Sustainable Fishing can work faster than the national group because of its nonprofit and nongovernmental status.
Swatzel is no stranger to working the SAFMC. Until this year, he was an appointee to the group. Chris Conklin, owner of Seven Seas Seafood now holds South Carolina’s seat on the federal panel. Swatzel said that his group had spent the past two or three months organizing.
Officers in addition to Mershon include: Langdon Gunter, a recreational fisherman from Myrtle Beach, vice president; Ann W. Shipman of Greer, business development manager at Sysco Food Services in Columbia, secretary-treasurer; and board members James Clark, executive chef at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla., commercial fishermen Tony Hancock and Sean Heverin.
The organization is seeking additional members, Swatzel said. Annual membership levels and costs are $600 for a sustaining member, $300 for a supporting member, $100 for a contributing member and $50 for an associate member.