The fate of Reef Fish Amendment 40, and the 2015 recreational red snapper season in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico,will be decided Thursday, the final day this week’s Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in Mobile, Alabama.
“It’s going to be a very close vote,” Camp Matens said Wednesday. Matens, of Baton Rouge, is Louisiana’s recreational fishing representative to the 17-member GMFMC.
Amendment 40 is better known across the five Gulf states by the effect it will have. It’s called “Sector Separation,” a move that will split the annual recreational red snapper quota between private anglers and “for-hire” operations better known as charterboat or headboat operations.
Recreational anglers get 49 percent of the annual quota, currently pegged at 11 million pounds — commercial fishermen get 51 percent — and Amendment 40 will take 47 percent of that 49 percent allowable take for the charterboat sector. Using the same formula the National Marine Fisheries Service managers have used to set recent recreational red snapper seasons in federal waters, this 47 percent reduction could mean recreational fishermen would get no more than a four-day season in 2015.
No matter the vote’s outcome, Matens confirmed the council voted “not to send it to NOAA,” a decision that would delay any of the plan’s approval by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that oversees federal fishery management rules and regulations.
Matens also confirmed Tuesday’s committee meeting produced a push to reinvigorate Reef Fish Amendment 39, a plan that calls for the regional or state management of reef fish and other offshore species.
Matens said the newest “regional management” plan would to give each of the five Gulf states a percentage of the red snapper fishery, then let each state decide how to best divide the relative take of each sector involved in each fishery in federal waters.
“That added a completely different element to this (Amendment 40) entire discussion,” Matens said.
In other GMFMC action Wednesday, the council voted to stay with a proposal to modify the definition of a “for-hire” vessel to include any boat that accepts goods or services in lieu of a direct payment for a trip, and voted to commend the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for its work in setting rules for multi-day limits at Port Eads Marina.