Letter: Bill gives Gulf states a shot at managing red snapper

Posted on November 12, 2015

Advocate outdoors writer Joe Macaluso noted in his Oct. 10 column that U.S. Rep. Garret Graves has introduced a bill that would give the five Gulf states the ability to manage red snapper fishing off their coasts. H.R. 3094, with 28 bipartisan co-sponsors, was the subject of a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing Oct. 22, during which the failures of federal management of our fish again were brought to light.

Anyone who has experienced the chaos of federal fisheries management in the Gulf knows how badly this legislation is needed. Federal management is plagued by inconsistent seasons, poor data, illogical decision-making and an overall lack of care for what’s best for Gulf residents.

And it keeps getting worse.

Louisiana anglers recently had an opportunity to offer comments on three new management plans the feds are considering for red snapper. Two of those amendments would let a small number of charter/for-hire and headboat operators personally own shares of Gulf red snapper, taking fishing opportunities away from all recreational fishermen. These privatization plans are modeled on the commercial sector’s private ownership plan, in which less than 400 people already own roughly half of the entire red snapper fishery.

For generations, our country has proudly managed fish and game for all Americans. Now, the federal government seems intent on forcing American families to pay private citizens to access a public resource on public waters. It is simply wrong.

The other plan being considered will let the states have a little more responsibility with red snapper but is still subject to federal flaws. The management amendment is 326 pages and can be described only as a classic bureaucratic mess. It is difficult to see how the states could possibly be granted the authority to do their jobs properly under this approach.

It is clear that federal snapper management is flawed to the core. Thousands of anglers throughout the Gulf have voiced absolute dissatisfaction with the course of red snapper management in every way imaginable, but little changes.

With that in mind, we owe Graves a huge thank-you for presenting a way out of this mess. Rather than allow federal fisheries bureaucrats to keep making the same mistakes, the time has come for Congress to embrace a common-sense bill that will let the professional wildlife managers in the states take over red snapper.

State management succeeds for a host of fish such as redfish, speckled trout, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, blue crabs and many others, and for recreational and commercial fisheries. Federal fisheries management has failed, and it’s time to plot a new course and let the states do the job right.

David Cresson
CEO, Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana
Baton Rouge

Originally printed in the New Orleans Advocate

Issues: Gulf of Mexico