Coastal Conservation Association has intervened in a lawsuit initiated by the commercial fishing industry that is attempting to roll back an important precedent affecting fishery allocations. Although the commercial lawsuit seeks to overturn an action reflecting better data in a single fishery – the Gulf of Mexico red grouper fishery – it threatens a precedent that will be applied to almost every fishery under federal management, with profound implications for the recreational fishing sector and the businesses that depend on it.
“If the Gulf Council’s action is not defended, anglers will eventually be negatively impacted in a host of other fisheries like red snapper and amberjack that are set to undergo a similar data calibration process,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee “There is so much at stake here.”
The issue is technical but it revolves around the method by which NOAA’s historical recreational harvest data for a species of fish has been recalculated using improved techniques.
“Functionally, nothing has changed as a result of this change to reflect better data. Managers just have a clearer picture of what is actually happening in the fishery, and the commercial sector has not been deprived of a single fish,” said Bird. “However, if the commercial sector successfully argues that it should have been arbitrarily awarded an allocation increase based on changes to historical recreational data, the closures impacting red grouper this year will be much worse in the future. That is the peril of this lawsuit.”