Unless and until Congress changes the Magnuson-Stevens Fish Conservation and Management Act, the federal mandate with a long name, Gulf of Mexico recreational fishermen will continue to have their pockets picked.
That’s because when it comes to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s management tactics and schemes, recreational fishermen have suffered far more than the commercial side.
Ask any marina owner if their business has suffered with the restrictions on the recreational red snapper and amberjack catch. The answer first comes with a frown, then a wince.
A second lesson learned is that the Gulf Council, and its federal administrator Roy Crabtree, have managed to massage Magnuson-Stevens regulations to fit its very obvious management intentions to benefit the commercial side, thereby reducing recreational fishing effort.
In the wake of the November elections, it’s possible we could see Congress take a more active stance on the council’s position when it comes to recreational regulations. Capitol Hill nudges in the past, especially from the delegations from the five Gulf States, doesn’t appear to have pushed the Gulf Council from a series of actions (nor accountability) when it comes to extant allowances in Magnuson-Stevens that could correct the inequities in recreational quotas and seasons.
We need only cite the recent Council-approved reallocation that would have allowed the recreational sector a 75-percent share (25 percent to commercial interests) of any annual allowable red snapper quota exceeding 9.12 million pounds. That move was shelved four months after it was adopted.
Just last week, federal fisheries managers sent out a notice of a proposal that could revise something called “National Standard Guidelines,” the Magnuson-Stevens’ rules the Gulf Council has for years, hid behind to limit recreational opportunity.
National Standard Guidelines sounds like bureaucratic jibberish, but in this case, National Standards 1, 3 and 7 directly pertain to continually mounting objections from recreational anglers.
According to announcement, these three standards, “... address concerns raised during the implementation of annual catch limits and accountability measures, and provide flexibility within current statutory limits to address fishery management issues. The proposed revisions do not establish new requirements or require the regional fishery management councils to revise their current fishery management plans.”
Maybe the question today should be why federal managers are not attacking what they’re obviously dodging in that last sentence: New rules are needed; regional fishery management councils need to revise management plans. NOAA Fisheries is going to accept public comment through June 30. Send comments to Wes Patrick/email: firstname.lastname@example.org.