I read with great interest the recent guest commentary “Red snapper rhetoric troublesome” written by Fourchon charter captain and commercial red snapper harvester Steve Tomeny. This is an issue very important to the hundreds of thousands of saltwater anglers in Louisiana and other Gulf states.
Tomeny chastised certain organizations for going on a misinformation campaign by misleading the public about Gulf Council Amendment 40, which will give separate federal regulations and seasons to charter boat operations and private recreational anglers for red snapper harvest. As a member of one of those organizations Tomeny is certainly referring to, I assure him and the readers that I and my fellow coastal conservationists are not misinformed. We know exactly what these headboat charter operations are trying to achieve.
First, they are trying to make more money. During a recent public comment meeting this year, the commercial harvest interests spoke against another amendment that would have more fairly reallocated the red snapper quota between the 390 commercial snapper fishermen and the hundreds of thousands of recreational snapper fishermen in the Gulf. This would have expanded access for all recreational fishermen, including his charter operation.
Commercial interests assert that Amendment 40 is only leveling the playing field because charter captains who hold federal fisheries permits cannot fish the liberal state waters seasons. The Gulf Council had the option to give charters access to state seasons and chose not to. It is apparent that the solution is to give the federal waters to commercial operators and let private boat owners have the state waters (Louisiana’s state waters extend only three miles from its coast). That gives an extremely limited opportunity for private anglers to fish for red snapper. Though the state has taken it upon itself to push that boundary, the federal government has responded by sending the Coast Guard after some fishermen who dare fish snapper beyond three miles.
Let’s look beyond the rhetoric being spread by charter captains and environmental organizations prying them to say it. These fish are a public resource. They belong to us all, not just a select few who want their little personal slice.
I recently took my 8-year-old daughter on her first saltwater fishing trip, and it was a great way to introduce her to the rich resource we call “sportsman’s paradise.” It is a shame that these 390 commercial fishermen are pushing an agenda that will severely limit recreational anglers for now and future generations.