What’s happening Monday evening in Baton Rouge is called a “public hearing.”
The big fear among recreational red snapper fishermen is there will be a lot of talking, but not much hearing by the folks who’ll decide when hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of recreational fishermen across the Gulf of Mexico will be allowed to catch a species that’s beyond the point of population recovery in our offshore waters.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and their bosses in three federal bureaucratic levels already have held six hearings on Reef Fish Amendment 40, a move that will carve millions of pounds of the annual allowed recreational red snapper take from Gulf waters and give it to “for-hire” charterboats and headboats across the five Gulf states. This boiling-over controversy carries the polite title of “sector separation.”
Monday is the next stop on this public hearing’s schedule: It’s set for 6 p.m. at Hyatt Place-Baton Rouge at 6080 Bluebonnet Blvd. The last stop is 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Courtyard by Marriott Gulfport, 1600 E. Beach Blvd. in Gulfport, Mississippi.
From reports, recreationals have not fared well during the first six hearings. There was news from the Aug. 6 hearing in Orange Beach, Alabama, that discussing the issue boiled over from a heated exchange of words to a shoving match.
There’s no point in beating around the bush now: If the Gulf Council tackles the issue next week in its meeting at Beau Rivage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, there’s every chance that taking something near 50 percent of the recreational quota and handing it over to for-hire operations will mean there will be no days left for a recreational season in the foreseeable future.
Yes, there has been outcry from recreational fishermen, but that appears to be falling on deaf ears.
It’s almost as if national fisheries managers want to test millions of recreational anglers to see if they will push this matter into Congress, where elected officials will decide allocation.
It’s as if these bureaucrats suddenly have realized that their red snapper management schemes that have bent to the constant push from the Environmental Defense Fund finally triggered an understanding that they have bitten off more than they can chew.
It’s as if they have yielded so often to what otherwise would be insignificant factions, and have used what everyone knows is flawed and outdated data to back up their bureaucratic maneuverings, that they’ve backed themselves into a corner.
It’s as if national managers want this showdown between the electorate and big money. Yes, there’s big money in red snapper, and the future could bring big-block votes from the millions of red snapper fishermen, who could show up at the polls to select a candidate who will carry their banner, and take a much closer look at which Gulf states group really drives this economic engine.