In the wake of the announcement of a 27-day 2013 federal recreational red snapper season, we warned that the crisis would be used to justify all kinds of schemes and, unfortunately, that prediction was correct. On April 2, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) quietly opened a comment period for a pilot program that would let a select group of headboats take ownership of recreational red snapper quota to use as their own. It is another aggressive attempt to force a concept known as catch shares into the recreational sector. Catch shares literally give a portion of a fishery to a business entity for its own use and profit. Federal bureaucrats, among others, believe privatizing a public resource is justified in the pursuit of greater accountability.
While the states, other headboat businesses, and hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers deal with a 27-day season, this pilot program proposes to take a portion of the meager recreational quota and give it to a select group of about 20 boats to use as their own, whenever they want, however they want. It is the latest in a string of baffling decisions by NMFS that serve to ratchet down the public's access to a booming red snapper population.
Several of the Gulf states are rejecting federal management of red snapper, and federal bills have been filed seeking to give greater control of fishery resources to the states. CCA supports these efforts to move management to the states and believes that the states are far better equipped to create healthy marine resources that can be enjoyed widely by their citizens. We will continue to work to achieve that goal, but in the meantime we must continue to defend against federal schemes that privatize public resources under the guise of management.
In response to our blog warning against just this type of program, our members sent messages to members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council asking them to reject any scheme to minimize recreational access to our marine resources. We received comments from Council members commending the quality and thoughtfulness of those emails. It is a sign of the times that we need to ask for your help again to deliver the same strong message to the National Marine Fisheries Service on this requested pilot program.
Please take a few moments to click HERE below and ask the federal government to reject policies that distribute resources to the few and destroy access for the many.
House Bill 36, which will give Red Drum game fish status in Georgia, has just passed from the Senate's Natural Resource Committee with a "Do Pass" recommendation and is headed for its final hurdle on the Senate Floor. Your help us needed now to push this landmark legislation over the finish line.
Currently, no saltwater fish of recreational importance are classified as game fish, and that puts us solidly behind our neighbors to the north and south. Both Florida and South Carolina have enacted game fish status for numerous species and are reaping the rewards of being able to offer world-class recreational fisheries. HB 36 will be a powerful tool in efforts to cultivate this fishery as a boost to economic development and tourism along Georgia’s Coast.
Designation as a game fish simply means the species cannot be sold (unless otherwise provided for by law) and can be legally taken only by rod and reel. Anglers will still be able to target, catch and keep red drum for their own use in line with state regulations, seasons and limits.
The House already passed this legislation by a resounding vote of 168-0. We need our members to contact their Senators and ask that they support this important effort. CLICK HERE to send a message to your Senator today.
In the chaos surrounding the 2013 recreational red snapper season, it is possible that the 27-day season will be used as an excuse to propose more unfair management schemes such as catch shares and sector separation for charter/for-hire boats.
CCA’s calls to reallocate red snapper as a means to provide relief to the recreational sector as a whole continue to be ignored. An army of environmental and commercial lobbyists continue to seek ways to limit recreational access to this public resource. A few hundred commercial boats continue to profit from 51 percent of all Gulf red snapper. Hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers continue to get the remaining 49 percent over a 27-day season with an allocation that was set back in the 1980s. This is crazy.
Instead of seriously looking at reallocation, federal bureaucrats have chosen to promote things like a one-snapper bag limit. They fought hard to get the power to punish specific Gulf states that choose to reject the futility of federal red snapper regulations. This new federal power now means anglers in some states may face a red snapper season of as few as 11 days.
We fully expect that against this backdrop of failure, renewed efforts will be made to promote things like catch shares to further limit recreational participation and give a portion of the meager recreational catch to specific charter/for hire businesses to use as their own. While hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers in private boats are left with virtually nothing, a select few businesses and their allies in the environmental community will try to escape with a gift of red snapper from the federal government.
We’ve been told that federal fisheries managers and Council members don’t hear from recreational anglers enough. We’ve been told that the cadre of charter captains, environmental lobbyists and commercial snapper barons who attend every Council meeting are carrying the day and drowning out the concerns of several hundred thousand unsatisfied recreational anglers.
There has never been a more critical time for anglers to make their voices heard in federal fisheries management. Take a few moments now to click the link below and contact your Council members and Council staff personally. Ask them to focus on the core issues that can benefit our community. Ask them to reject sector separation, catch shares and any other scheme to minimize recreational access to our marine resources. Demand that federal managers finally address reallocation. If possible, make plans to come to the next Gulf Council meeting, April 15-18, at the Marriott Courtyard at 1600 E. Beach Blvd. in Gulfport, Mississippi, and talk to them in person.
Red snapper is no longer a conservation issue – it’s a management issue, and federal management is failing. Send a message today, before we find ourselves permanently locked out of the process..
Dr. Bob Shipp
NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE