Anger is a powerful force, and if you’re a recreational fisherman who plans your year around fishing the waters off Louisiana’s coast, you should be angry today.
After listening to the testimony during Wednesday afternoon’s Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s public comment period, it’s clear, when it comes to red snapper, commercial fishing interests are determined to demonize recreational fishermen.
Commercial fishermen talk about how a certain fishing segment “steals” fish from them, and there’s no veiling their comments that the “segment” refers to recreational fishermen.
The commercial side points to federal fishing data that shows recreational fishermen have exceeded their quota for most of the past 20 years. One commercial fisherman’s comment indicated that number is 18 million pounds, although, like all other federally produced data, is often disputed by one or another groups with a dog in this fight.
Facts are that recreational fishermen have lived with and within continually restrictive seasons — remember 2014’s nine-day red snapper season — and Louisiana’s data collection system shows our state’s recreationals didn’t exceed what would be their quota if Louisiana would be allowed to carve out its percentage of historic recreational take from the allowed Gulf-wide annual take.
Even more to this point, the 2014 recreational total by Louisiana fishermen comes after a near year-long red snapper season in state waters, not the mere nine days federal managers and the GMFMC imposed.
It’s here that it must be noted that Louisiana’s recently engaged data collection system is recognized to produce better data more quickly — even to the point where weekly catch estimate numbers have become available — than the federal’s Marine Recreational Information Program (that’s the M-RIP reference you hear in fishery management discussions).
It also must be noted here that all the chest thumping commercial fishing interests are famous for in GMFMC public hearings, is the result of somebody finally putting the clamps on this sector.
Read about red snapper, especially in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and you learn that it was commercial fishing interests that came very close to wiping out red snapper stocks off the Florida coast more than 90 years ago.
Listen often enough during the past 10 years and you hear statements like “If we can stay inside our quota, then why can’t the other group?” It’s then you understand that whomever it is who wants to create such bitter animosity between the two user groups has accomplished their mission.
Maybe the bigger question anyone should ask is, if the recreational fishermen have exceeded their quota, then why are there more red snapper in off our coast than 10 years ago?