American sportsmen have always been proud that our nation’s game animals and fish belong to the public and not a privileged few individuals. However, a move being considered by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council aims to change that time-honored tradition for red snapper.

Amendment 40 would separate the charter fishing fleet from the general public when it comes to snapper harvest, giving charters more days to fish and private anglers far, far less. This move is not based in sound science or good economics. It is an effort to Band-Aid a poor federal fisheries management system in need of major surgery and is being pushed by so-called conservation groups interested in little more than advancing an agenda to limit recreational fishing in the Gulf.

The nation’s leading recreational fishing advocacy groups like The American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation have recommended changes that could be made to federal law and policy to remedy poor management like this proposed amendment. These recommendations are detailed in a report released earlier this year titled “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”

Among the recommendations made in the report are for federal managers and lawmakers to adopt a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management and to codify a process for cooperative management between federal and state agencies of our nation’s saltwater fish. The report emphasizes the need for federal managers to work more closely with state fisheries agencies and model the success the states have had at working with fishermen in setting consistent seasons while maintaining healthy stocks of fish.

Simply, the states have done a much better job of managing the fish and have done so while working closely and addressing the needs of fishing communities and have gained the trust of the fishermen in the process. The same cannot be said for federal fisheries managers and the Gulf Council.

Working with recreational fishermen, both the for-hire sector and private anglers, to find practical management practices that recognize the economic and cultural importance of recreational fishing should be the goal of the Gulf Council. That’s a better path to sustainable fishing and fishing communities than passing short-sighted amendments aimed at preventing recreational fishermen from access to a public resource.

George Huey

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Baton Rouge