“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Hope no one reading Wild Side is looking for any more than this one Far East pearl of wisdom, but this one is apropos today after the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to increase the recreational red snapper allocation.
It’s been a long time coming, and the small increase for the recreational quota from 49 percent to 52.5 percent of the annual total allowable take of red snapper is, at least, a baby step in this thousand-mile journey over this now-abundant single species swimming off Louisiana’s coast.
If this move is approved through the layers of federal bureaucracy that ends up on the desk of U.S. Department of Commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, then the commercial fishing sector will have its take reduced to 47.5 percent of the annual quota, but with an increased annual quota, the allowed commercial take will increase by more than a million pounds in the next allocation.
Make no mistake, this meager percentage shift hardly matches the need for better management, more accurate analysis and data collection by federal biologists and managers in the National Marine Fisheries Service, and more days in federal waters for a major economic engine — yes, recreational fishing translates into billions of dollars among the five Gulf states.
Nor does this shift come close to solving a problem created more than two decades ago when the respective 51-to-49 split between commercial and recreational sectors was nothing more than numbers grabbed from the air to serve as a starting point to stop overfishing Gulf red snapper stocks.
Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation put it best in a release sent Thursday: “Incredible as it may seem, today’s allocation relies on data gathered when ‘The Blues Brothers’ was first released (1980),” Angers wrote. “Red snapper stock size was at historic lows during the early 1980s, as was the recreational effort. Needless to say, the science involved in gathering data about the fishery has significantly improved in the last 30-plus years since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.”
Now that the council has move off Square 1, and only after years of ignoring mandated reallocation, it’s time for this 17-member panel to take second and third steps in putting this restricted-catch species under a more complete review.
A legend passes
Maybe it was the weeks-long chore of trying to put a perspective on the passing of J.B. Salter that took so long for this, but to his family and many friends, heartfelt condolences. J.B. is an easily remembered man. He’s the guy who added the name “jiggin’ rod” and the techniques that goes along with this light-tackle approach to catching freshwater species into the fishing dictionary. He will be missed, mightily missed.