CCA urges states to resist flawed federal policies in Gulf

Anglers cite lack of faith in federal catch share management of red snapper, grouper

Posted on November 10, 2009

Faced with the unwelcome reality of having two popular recreational fisheries managed by a fundamentally flawed catch share system in the Gulf of Mexico, Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) has taken the rare step of not supporting Gulf state compliance with federal regulations for red snapper and grouper. The decision to support “non-concurrence” with federal regulations is a sign of growing dissatisfaction with federal management policies.

“We did not make this decision lightly, because concurrent regulations are clearly a positive for the proper conservation of most fisheries,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations committee. “I cannot recall many times when we have supported non-concurrence, but this is a sign of how little faith anglers have today in the federal government’s management of these fisheries.”
 
Catch share systems bestow a percentage of a public fishery resource to a select group of commercial fishermen, based on their catch history, to harvest for their own personal gain. CCA has acknowledged that such programs can be effective in purely commercial fisheries, but present serious problems for recreational anglers when applied to fisheries that have both commercial and recreational participation.
 
“We have seen the problems in the Gulf red snapper fishery that have developed since catch shares were implemented in 2005, and the lack of any effort to fix those issues,” said Brewer. “How can we ask the states to comply with federal regulations that are the product of a dysfunctional management scheme? In fact, CCA has filed a lawsuit to prevent a similar program from being implemented for Gulf grouper. We feel that we have to draw the line somewhere until the government addresses the concerns of recreational anglers.”
 
In a recent joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama joined CCA in its concern over the catch shares concept. In a powerful statement of the states’ apprehension in following a flawed federal program, the governors letter states, “Recreational fishing is an important activity in all of our states, and one that we would like to see continue to grow as a healthy activity for the public. However, we are concerned that NOAA policies could frustrate our ability to do that.”
 
“We see a major train wreck coming in the Gulf, and not just in these two fisheries,” said Brewer. “We don’t think the states should jump on board.”
 
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CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the nation. With almost 100,000 members in 17 state chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. Visit www.JoinCCA.org for more information.
 
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