The headline of a Jan. 20 guest column in The Advocate asks “Why shouldn’t recreational anglers have a say in red snapper quotas?” The column’s writer, fishing guide Bryan Carter, makes the case that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council should convene a panel of recreational fishermen to ensure their voice is heard in the contentious and often ridiculous debate over red snapper management. Carter goes on to write “we can’t” deny input from any stakeholder if we are truly seeking the best possible solution? The headline asks a great question. Recreational anglers, the largest stakeholder in the debate both in numbers and in economic impact, should certainly have a say in red snapper quotas. But, the better question is: “Will recreational fisherman get that say with the Gulf Council?”
History tells us absolutely not. The proposed recreational panel would only be a puppet for commercial interests.
I am a serious recreational fisherman who has followed fumbling, Band-Aid management and shouting matches with the Gulf Council for more than a decade. The council regularly asks anglers for input, holding public meetings across the Gulf states. More than 200 concerned anglers like me attended an August 2014 meeting in Baton Rouge to tell the council not to divide the recreational and charter snapper seasons.
Those against “sector separation” outnumbered those for 10-1 at that meeting. More than 90 percent of the email comments to the council opposed it, and the council’s own Reef Fish Advisory Committee voted 6-5 against the division.
Yet, the council still approved sector separation. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries surveys of licensed recreational anglers show more than 80 percent want management authority removed from the Gulf Council denying input from recreational fisherman and its existing advisory panels, what reason do we have to believe it will listen to a new panel?
It should be noted that commercial fishing and environmental groups have invested countless hours and dollars denying recreational input in this process. However, they are the ones most enthusiastic about forming the panel. Certain council members, appointed to represent Louisiana’s commercial fisherman, recommended the recreational panel’s formation. Pardon the pun, but something is fishy.
Recreational fisherman have said repeatedly we want the council and federal fisheries managers to give us the same consistent, conservation and science based fisheries management we get from Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. It’s a simple request. And we don’t need a suspiciously-formed panel to deliver that request.