Maybe before us senior-aged fishing guys pass rods and reels to another generation of recreational anglers, this constantly contentious issue about red snapper will be resolved.
Until then, we’re going to have to battle several forces, notably the Environmental Defense Fund, commercial interests and some restaurant associations, which consistently have thrown up roadblocks to our ability to take advantage of what federal fisheries managers know, because of their statistics, is a fully recovered stock of fish in the western Gulf of Mexico.
Until then, maybe the multi-layered federal bureaucracy that controls fishing in federal waters will come to understand that red snapper in the western Gulf of Mexico isn’t the problem. People are, and the constant carping from what has turned out to be decided anti-recreational interests that recreational fishermen take too many red snapper.
If that was the case, then why are there so many red snapper off Louisiana’s coast. With Louisiana’s recognized ability to count the recreational catch more accurately than federal managers, Louisiana’s recreational fishermen came up more than 100,000 pounds short of the historic recreational catch in 2014.
After covering this issue for more than 15 years, it’s evident that Florida was driving this red snapper issue for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Red snapper recovery in the eastern Gulf is lagging behind what we’ve seen in western waters.
Still, Florida fishermen, and those in Alabama, which share the eastern Gulf, get the same number of fishing days as Louisiana and Texas folks to take the 49 percent allowable take of red snapper. Commercial interests get 51 percent.
Now, with federal approval, a Gulf Council plan called “sector separation” will further cut the number of recreational red snapper days this year and for the next two years in federal waters. Roughly, the private recreational fishermen will get 53 percent (of 49 percent), and the “separated” sector, charterboat and for-hire fishing businesses, will get 47 percent of that 49 percent.
These actions by the Gulf Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the top rung of this bureaucratic fishing oligarchy, fly in the face of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Public Law 94-265), which states the Gulf Council, “establish separate quotas for recreational fishing (which, for the purposes of this subsection shall include charter fishing) and commercial fishing that, when reached, result in a prohibition on the retention of fish caught during recreational fishing and commercial fishing, respectively, for the remainder of the fishing year.”
Note the part about “shall include” and it’s no wonder the recreational fishing-based Coastal Conservation Association filed suit last week. After all, isn’t the law the law?