Aug. 18 is just another day among the 365 for this year. .
Just another day. Right?
Not if you’re among the tens of thousands of Louisiana’s saltwater fishermen.
You need to mark this day on your calendar, because folks from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are going to be at Hyatt Place on Bluebonnet Boulevard in Baton Rouge to elicit public comment on something the council has labeled “sector separation.”
The series of meetings across the five Gulf States begins Aug. 4 in St. Petersburg, Florida. and Galveston, Texas, and are designed to compilet public comment on the council’s Reef Fish Amendment 40, a plan that will divide recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico into private — you and me — and “for hire” — charter boat and headboat — operations.
A pilot program already has as many as 17 headboats/charters on the Florida Panhandle with an “exempted” permit to take red snapper out of the recreational season. During the last two months, the council approved a plan to “separate” 100 “for-hire” operations in Alabama, and gave them a quota the council took from the allowed annual recreational red snapper quota.
From all indications, the council’s “sector separation” plan will be to remove as much as 47 percent of the recreational quota for red snapper and give it to qualifying “for-hire” operations. That leaves 53 percent of that annual take for the “private” red snapper catchers.
Judging from the comments from folks in the know, if Amendment 40 is enacted this year, then we likely will not have a recreational red snapper season next year, or the next.
That’s because the models the National Marine Fisheries Service uses to determine not only the red snapper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico, and the recreational take are flawed, if only because there are so many variations in these equations that it puts recreational fishermen taking more than their allowed annual take.
The bottom line is that considering where recreation red snapper fishing is today, there’s every reason to believe there will not be a red snapper season in the foreseeable future.
If this year’s nine-day season, and what appears to be a hell-bent march to “sector separation” are not enough of a warning to draw a line in the sand, then maybe recreational fishermen across the gulf don’t deserve a red snapper season.
The full hearings schedule is available on the council’s website: www.gulfcouncil.org, then to “public hearing and scoping meetings,” then to Amendment 40.
You can make a difference, but not with 20 or 25 people showing up Aug. 18. You have to turn out in the numbers that commercial and charterboat operators who show up at council meetings and hearings.
This is the time to be heard, and not to believe that making a statement is up to the other guy.
Well, Aug. 18, that other guy is you.