Next week, Monday, Aug. 10 through Thursday, Aug. 13, will mark another chapter in the long history of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council meetings.
This one is scheduled for the Jefferson Ballroom inside the Hilton Riverside in downtown New Orleans.
Tuesday’s agenda is devoted to the council’s Reef Fish Management Committee. Up for discussion is a review of the public hearings on Amendment 39, the regional management of recreational red snapper; final action on Amendment 28, red snapper allocation; final action on a plan that will allow federal mangers to withhold some of the 2016 commercial red snapper quota; a discussion of setting up an ad hoc “Private Recreational Advisory Panel;” and, hearing option papers on amendments to federal reef fish management of headboats and “charter-for-hire” operations.”
Then, Wednesday beginning at 1 p.m., there’s “final” council actions on Amendment 28, the 2016 red snapper commercial quota, and an item labeled, “open testimony on any other fishery issues or concerns.”
If any of this reads like there’s an opening for recreational fishermen to increase days of a red snapper season in federal waters, then all we have to do it look at the council’s track record to know the council’s makeup is decidedly against any increased recreational opportunity.
For years, the defense of that anti-recreational stance lay in federally produced numbers showing red snapper “overharvesting” by the recreational sector.
Yet when the federal managers were forced to accept more modern assessment methods — that happened for the 2014 season — the count showed recreational fishermen across the Gulf States landed 3,866,531 pounds of red snapper, an estimated catch 28 percent under the 5.39 million pounds annual quota.
That assessment called into question the years of numbers the commercial side and their allies in the environmental community used to continually call for restrictions on recreational red snapper activity. Noted here, for the first time, is there was a 20 percent buffer, something we’d more commonly call a “fudge factor,” built into the recreational model for determining the recreational season.
At the country’s major fishing tackle show two weeks ago, in a fishing media summit sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Roy Crabtree, federal regional administrator for the GMFMC, responded to that 1.5 million recreational shortfall with something like, “Well, see, the model worked.”
Well, it didn’t: What it did was short recreational fishermen at least another weekend in federal waters to catch red snapper.
And did recreational fishermen get those days back? Nope, not with a 10-day season this year. Next week is your chance to respond. Take advantage of it.