If anyone wonders why recreational fishermen across the Gulf South, and their organizations, are angry these days, then consider the angst over the recently opened, and shortest-on-record, 48-day recreational red snapper season.
After offshore waters closures after 2010’s BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, federal fisheries managers know recreationals were 1 million pounds shy of filling last year’s quota. And with the 2011 quota expanded, recreationals ask why the short season.
Added to the mix are continued Louisiana’s offshore reports that red snapper are abundant around oil rigs.
That’s why I’m constantly bombarded by groups like the Coastal Conservation Association and Recreational Fishing Alliance.
Take the RFA, and its executive director Jim Donofrio, first: “There’s a huge disconnect between what fishermen see on the water each day and what the federal fisheries service folks are actually telling us is out there. They say our observations are purely anecdotal, while their information allegedly comes from the best available science.”
Donofrio said the National Marine Fisheries Service and members of the country’s eight regional fisheries management councils — the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council among them — use provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to enforce these regulations. He called on fishermen to contact senators and representatives to fix Magnuson-Stevens.
If recreational fishermen think it can’t get any worse, it can, and that’s where CCA enters the picture.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries forwarded a plan to the GMFMC to establish a Catch Share Program for headboat operations in the gulf. Headboats are charter businesses that accept daily recreational, step-on-the-boat trips.
Already, the GMFMC has a catch-share for commercial fishermen — Individual Fishing Quota — which sets limits for commercial operations through IFQs to the limit of the annual commercial quota, which, for red snapper, is 51 percent for commercials and 49 percent of recreationals.
The new headboat IFQ will strip red snapper numbers from the recreational side without a corresponding take from the commercial side.
“It is infuriating that NOAA Fisheries is disregarding the very clear messages that have been delivered on catch shares and their impact on recreational anglers,” CCA spokesman Chester Brewer said. “Four Gulf State governors signed a letter in 2009 warning about the negative impacts of catch shares on recreational angling. … Yet, somehow, NOAA Fisheries believes it is OK to proceed with a closed-door session to figure out how to do a new catch share program. This is an agency that seems almost completely disconnected.”