On Thursday, January 17 (Destin) and Tuesday, January 22 (St. Petersburg), the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) is going out for scoping of public opinion of regional fisheries management. Both meetings are set to begin at 6 p.m. and will conclude no later than 9 p.m.
According to representatives at the Gulf Council, the scoping meetings are meant to gather public input on the subject of regional management of recreational red snapper. Gulf anglers are being asked to provide comments with regard to Reef Fish Amendment 39 pertaining to the concept of regional management of recreational red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Scenarios being discussed at the Gulf Council pertain to breaking up the Gulf by regional and state boundaries, while also addressing red snapper allocation.
A video has been posted at You Tube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFnbLXSaP-U&feature=youtu.be) which explains how this new regional approach could impact Gulf anglers, and it’s a presentation which is sure to cause concern for anglers throughout the Gulf region, especially in terms of sector separation goals.
RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said it only takes 24 seconds watching the video to understand the problem with coastal fisheries management like red snapper. “It’s a federal issue, it was Congress reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006 by unanimous consent in the Senate and including language which has led to a rebounding population of red snapper at the expense of our recreational fishing community,” Donofrio said.
Donofrio said that much of the language written into Magnuson-Stevens in 2006 at the urging of environmental groups has pitted members of the recreational fishing community against each other in recent years, particularly in terms of private anglers and the for-hire sector. “One of the most divisive arguments in our recreational community now is how our federally permitted vessels deal with regional management measures which have state seasons open while federal waters are closed,” Donofrio said. “The federal law has forced fisheries managers to ratchet down regulations so severely that we’re arguing over single days on the water where we once talked of full seasons of fisheries.”
RFA’s Forgotten Coast (RFA-FC) chairman Capt. Tom Adams says it’s getting harder and harder for business owners to keep their faith while fighting to keep their heads above water. “This is a dejected, depressed bunch of people being forced out of business by bad laws and miserable fisheries management,” Capt. Adams said. “This is Florida, fishing capital of the world, with a 27-day snapper season, what a joke!”
“Everyone agrees there are more red snapper out there than there ever has been,” Adams noted. The Mexico Beach charter boat captain noted that there was an 8-month season on red snapper just a few years ago at a time when there was statutory overfishing occurring with the stock. In the spring, NOAA Fisheries announced findings from a newly updated population assessment that shows overfishing of Gulf of Mexico red snapper has ended and the population is rebounding, allowing NOAA the ability to increase fishing catch limits for the species from 7.53 million pounds to 8.08 million pounds. However, Capt. Adams and RFA noted that even adding another 1 million pounds of red snapper to the recreational quota only adds an additional 7 days of available fishing for Gulf anglers, a devastating fisheries management contradiction.
“How’s that for fishery management, as the population of fish grows the days which anglers are allowed on the water is reduced,” Donofrio said. “When fish stocks are low, managers stop us from fishing to protect the fish, yet as the population grows and the stocks become more plentiful, managers do the exact same thing, they stop us from fishing to protect the fish.”
Image courtesy Recreational Fishing Alliance