Frustration with federal management of some fish species has sometimes led to a reluctance among anglers to participate in efforts to collect data about what we catch. In intensely troubled fisheries, particularly Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper, a feeling develops that any information given to federal managers is more likely to be used against anglers than for better management. Among the many signs that a situation has hit an unworkable level of mistrust is a shutdown in the lines of communication.
While it can be temporarily satisfying to thumb your nose at the system, the impacts of a data boycott can be far-reaching, unexpected and unwelcome. Garbage in, garbage out, as the saying goes. Collecting timely, accurate data is extremely important to good fisheries management and without it managers are left with guesses. The results are often overly restrictive and nonsensical regulations that further erode trust in the management system.
In the Gulf Red Snapper fishery, however, anglers have a chance to break this cycle. This year, for the first time ever, the Gulf states have been given the authority to manage the Red Snapper fishery for private recreational anglers in federal waters under a two-year exempted fishing permit. This is a hugely positive development and one that CCA has supported for many years. The immediate effect is dramatically longer seasons in federal waters for anglers in every state, but eventually the states could be given greater authority for tailoring management of the fishery in ways that make the most sense for each state. All of that potential, however, is predicated on the states being able to generate better, more accurate and more timely data on what anglers are catching than the federal government was willing to procure.
And that is where you come in. You can play a vital role.
To better manage one of the most troubled fisheries in America, the Gulf states have each stepped up and invested in enhanced recreational angling data collection. In some cases, that means more surveyors at boat ramps and marinas asking questions and peering into ice chests. In other cases, it means electronic reporting apps that anglers can download and use to input their catch data on every trip. In some cases it is both. Some states have mandatory reporting, which means anglers are required to report their catch, while in larger states where mandatory reporting is logistically impractical, the system relies on voluntary reporting. In every case the system is completely dependent upon anglers participating as willing partners with the states to empower then with better data and management. And that helps everyone.
The states should be commended for their efforts to bring some sanity into the management of Red Snapper, and anglers should repay that effort with their trust and cooperation. Download your state’s reporting app before you head offshore on your next trip and take a few moments to report your catch. The next time a sunburned state fishery sampler heads toward you at the ramp or marina with a clipboard in hand, take the time to help them do their job.
By doing our part, anglers can inform and inspire better fisheries management decisions that work both for the resource and for our access to it.