ORLANDO, Fla. — Work through any basic physics class, and among the first lessons learned is how difficult it is to break inertia.
This part of Newton’s first law became evident last week at ICAST in Orlando, Florida, the giant fishing trade show, when applied to fishing and fishing legislation.
It’s been more than two years since the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was scheduled for Congressional reauthorization.
That might not sound like a big deal to Americans fighting the daily grind to keep families fed, clothed and sheltered, but this is the law of the land when it comes to fishing off the coasts of our great country.
The law is broken, and must be fixed if recreational fishermen have any reason to believe they have a future in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has interpreted stipulations in Magnuson-Stevens to deny recreational fishermen a chance to take red snapper from the western Gulf of Mexico, where, from all indications, this species no longer is overfished and there is no overfishing.
Yes, if divided into east and west zones for red snapper, the western Gulf has a healthy red snapper population, and GMFMC’s federal administrator Roy Crabtree admitted as much last week during Thursday’s Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership media summit.
Part of Magnuson-Stevens allows for reallocation of the species among user groups, which means if the GMFMC wanted to do so, the 17-person council could give recreational fishermen more than the 10 days they got this year to catch red snapper in federal waters. But all the GMFMC has done is pay little more than lip service to this reallocation issue.
The solution is clear: Rework Magnuson-Stevens. But clearer is that the U.S. House-passed bill to reauthorize this act won’t see the light of day in the Senate this year, maybe not in 2016.
American Sportfishing Association’s Ocean Resource Policy director Mike Leonard told the media gathered at the summit that reauthorization isn’t likely to gain traction in the Senate until after the 2016 presidential election. That’s more than 15 months away.
Ah, but there’s another solution. Give the five Gulf states the ability to manage red snapper and other species off their coasts.
That’s been tossed around by the GMFMC, too, but meaningful action has been delayed because it appears the council believes the states don’t have their ducks in a row to handle this task.
Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., found a way to break inertia when he introduced a bill on the House side in U.S. Congress on Thursday to mandate the transfer of red snapper management to the five Gulf states. The move won’t tamper with quotas, but will allow states to tailor seasons and creel limits for their fishermen, and not have federal managers dictating the whens and wheres for diverse user groups.