Wickstrom and Florida Sportsman magazine are spearheading an awareness campaign that includes a petition, an op-ed column and another story in upcoming issues, as well as online features and a social media campaign supporting conservation efforts to aid one of Florida’s most popular recreational fish. Wickstrom goes on to report the issues facing mahi are widely recognized among many staff, Advisory Panel members and Council members within the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, yet the only change on the horizon for dolphin is reducing the boat limit from 60 to 54. A reduction of six fish.
“It's time for action,” Wickstrom exclaims. “We, the recreational angler, need to be heard if we want to – expect to – catch a dolphin [mahi] on future offshore trips.”
Anglers are advocating and demanding a cut back in vessel limits immediately. They’re also asking the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and the state of Florida, to reduce the number of fish they’re allowed to catch. Currently, commercial fishing boats are allowed unlimited quantities.
For nearly 20 years, efforts by recreational anglers, and even the Council have tried, unsuccessfully, to put daily commercial trip limits in place. In 2004, the Council passed a 3,000-pound trip limit, only to have the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) throw out the limit based on the assertion that dolphins were only a bycatch. The Council tried again in 2016 and 2020 to no avail.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council headquartered in Charleston, S.C., is responsible for the conservation and management of fish stocks within the federal 200-mile limit of the Atlantic off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida to Key West.
“Clearly, something needs to be done and quick,” Wickstrom continues. “The dolphinfish [mahi-mahi] is an essential gamefish, and is the foundation for all offshore fishing that helps drive tourism efforts in Florida. Saltwater anglers in Florida alone provide an annual benefit of nearly $9 billion to the U.S. economy.”