Reallocation is the Answer

Anglers left holding the bag with shortest red snapper season on record

Posted on April 26, 2010

NOAA Fisheries announced a perplexing paradox today that speaks to the flaws in the federal fisheries management system. In the release, NOAA Fisheries declared both an increase in the overall total allowable catch of Gulf red snapper in 2010 and the shortest recreational red snapper season on record, at the same time.

“We are very encouraged that a combination of factors, including shrimp trawl bycatch reduction and environmental impacts, have converged to produce a recovery in red snapper, at long last,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “However, there is obviously something systemically wrong with how this fishery is being managed when recreational red snapper anglers will be sitting at the dock more than 10 months of the year while the commercial sector fishes year-round.”
Even with a recovering stock, the recreational anglers from five Gulf States pursuing red snapper in the Gulf are still left with just 49 percent of the total allowable catch of 6.945 million pounds, while about 400 commercial fishermen are currently entitled to 51 percent of the harvest through a catch share system. A rebounding stock means recreational anglers are finding it easier to catch red snapper, and the fish they catch are bigger. With a quota set in total pounds, the only way the government is capable of controlling recreational harvest is to shorten the season. In 2010, that means 53 days.
“The next step for this fishery has to be a serious look at reallocation. When you think how much the demographics and economics of this fishery have changed since it was set at 51 percent commercial and 49 percent recreational, the current allocation is indefensible,” said Brewer. “We must have reallocation of fisheries where appropriate, and there is no greater need for this than in Gulf red snapper.”
At the recent Recreational Fishing Summit in Washington DC, commercial catch shares were credited by some federal fisheries managers for the recovery of Gulf red snapper, a claim that CCA and others in the recreational fishing community are quick to refute.
“There is an effort right now to credit catch shares with the recovery of Gulf red snapper, which is false advertising,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “This recovery is being fueled by the impact of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and others on the fishing fleet, by reductions in fishing effort due to high fuel prices, and by mandated reductions in shrimp trawl bycatch due to CCA legal action. Catch shares have succeeded in cementing in the current allocation and creating a 53-day recreational fishing derby, and that is about all.”
CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH