If there’s one thing the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has demonstrated in the past decade, it’s that most of its 17 voting members care little for what recreational fishermen tell them and council staff.
The same is true for the federal fisheries managers, who continue to provide the council with what can only be termed as misinformation about the status of red snapper in the Gulf and the people who catch this fish.
We need only to point to another success story from our state fisheries biologists — Louisiana’s LA Creel Program — to debunk the notion that recreational fishermen are an uncontrollable lot when it comes to catching red snapper. LA Creel’s more accurate and immediate data on red snapper catches has given Louisiana’s offshore fishermen far, far, far more days pursuing red snapper than the 10 days they had under federal guidelines.
And the best part is that the federal managers can’t argue about the numbers LA Creel has produced during the past two years. Heck, we’re getting another red snapper season in state waters beginning Nov. 20 because the 10-day federal recreational, the 44-day charterboat season and the March into September season in state waters left our state near 100,000 pounds short of what’s considered to be Louisiana’s historic recreational red snapper catch. Federal managers won’t be able to provide those numbers until next spring.
It’s odd that these two points should converge Monday night in Baton Rouge. From 6-9 p.m. at the Doubletree on Constitution Avenue, GMFMC staffers will take public comment on Amendment 39, a move to shift red snapper management to the five Gulf states.
A strong recreational showing should put more heat on the council to extend further consideration to this Reef Fish Amendment, especially now that Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves’ push for state reef fish management is making its way through the U.S. House.
But it won’t be enough to insist for state control over recreational red snapper. Commercial interests, urged on by the Environmental Defense Fund, enlisted charterboat fishermen to oppose Amendment 39, and have steered this plan to manage only private “rec” take.
It’s important to know that “recreational” was divided into private and charterboat sectors this year, and one of the options for A39 is that all recreational activity fall under the state’s purvue. It’s a move Louisiana charterboat operators should embrace if only because our state has demonstrated the ability to give them more than the feds’ 44-day season.
A39 is important because it will give our state managers the chance to tailor red snapper seasons to the way we fish, not the way Florida and Alabama charters fish.
That’s why it’s important to show up Monday night.