United threat faces recreational angling

Environmental group, charter/for-hire, commercial harvesters join forces to oppose CCA lawsuit

Posted on September 22, 2015

Coastal Conservation Association’s stand against Amendment 40 has now drawn formal opposition from all the groups actively promoting privatization of public marine resources in the Gulf of Mexico. The Charter Fishermen’s Association formally intervened on behalf of the federal government’s highly controversial plan for Gulf red snapper in May and in recent weeks both the Environmental Defense Fund and the Shareholder Rights Alliance have filed Amicus Briefs in support of the federal government.

Standing with CCA is the State of Louisiana, which filed an Amicus Brief in support of recreational anglers in May.

“The lines are clearly drawn,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “The nation’s fisheries are facing a united threat from those who seek to severely limit access to public marine resources through privatization schemes. This case may very well determine if this country continues to adhere to the principles of the public trust doctrine in the management of our wildlife resources, or if it will simply allow those resources to be given away to stakeholders that have joined forces to game the system.”

Amendment 40, also known as sector separation, created a new charter/for-hire sector and reserved a significant percentage of the overall recreational red snapper quota solely for use by the charter/for-hire industry. The measure was narrowly approved by the Gulf Council in October 2014 and resulted in seven representatives to the Council submitting a scathing minority report that was ultimately ignored. CCA filed suit in United States District Court shortly after Amendment 40 was signed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in April 2015.

Amendment 40 resulted in a private-boat recreational angling season of just 10 days in 2015, compared to 44 days for the new charter/for-hire sector. The commercial sector, which already operates under a privatized system known as a catch share program, is allowed to fish year-round.

“The Environmental Defense Fund, a select few charter/for-hire operators, and the commercial shareholders are working hand-in-glove to privatize roughly 70 percent of the entire red snapper fishery, and the federal government is facilitating it,” said Bird. “The merger of a major environmental group with for-profit harvesters is making a mockery of the federal council system, and we are confident that the court will not allow such flagrant manipulation to continue. ”

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Oct. 28 in New Orleans.