This just in: The guys and gals in charge of federal fisheries management announced that recreational fishermen across the five Gulf States landed 3,866,531 pounds of red snapper in 2014, a catch 28 percent under the federally set annual quota of 5.39 million pounds.
Whoa, wait just a piscatorial minute: You mean to tell us that National Marine Fisheries Service data shows recreational fishermen came up 1.5 million pounds short of their limit?
And recreational anglers were not given the opportunity to reach that quota, that no additional days came later in 2015, that shortfall wasn’t added into 2015’s allowable catch that could have extended the current 10-day snapper season?
This information calls into question the accuracy of years of NMFS data collection practices, periods when federal formulae showed recreational catches exceeded the recreational sector’s by as much as 90 percent.
Maybe the new equations to estimate recreational catch, new methods demanded by recreational fishing groups, indicate federal data collections methods far exaggerated the recreation catch.
Maybe, too, the “buffers” added into the formula to determine the recreational-catch quota — it was a factor of 20 percent — was far too high a number. A “buffer” is used to limit the number of days to insure recreational anglers don’t exceed the take allowed in the annual quota.
Maybe, three, is there are better methods to determine recreational catch, a way that would give the recreational side more chances to catch a species that is thriving in western Gulf of Mexico waters.
Maybe, four, is that Louisiana’s LA Creel method of determining recreational catch showed federal counters there is a way to figure recreational catch on a weekly catch-count basis rather than the federal system that releases this information nearly a year after the recreational season was closed.
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries assistant secretary Randy Pausina insisted, then proved LA Creel, the state’s way to count the recreational red snapper catch, is far more accurate than NMFS’ method. LA Creel enters it’s third season this year and samples catch data by placing biologists at docks and marinas daily, then completing its data collection through emails and phone calls to anglers enrolled in the program.
This intense work schedule, Pausina said, has allowed the LDWF to arrive at catch estimates within two weeks after data collection, and allows fisheries managers to alter, and possibly extend, fishing seasons.
If this system was in place in the federal fisheries management plan, recreational fishermen across the Gulf could have added days to their 2014 red snapper season, and the thousands of jobs at marinas, bait shops and tackle stores depending on recreational fishing could have benefitted from this economic activity.