Now that the first major holiday of the last months of a disaster-filled 2020 is over — and we await the sure-to-come uptick in COVID-19 cases in Thanksgiving’s wake — we need to pay attention to a couple of major fisheries issues staring us in the face.
Monday and Tuesday the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will take final action on reef fish and and redfish amendments. It’s Amendment 48 for reef fish and Amendment 5 for redfish.
The reef fish part if what’s drawn the most attention from recreational fishing quarters.
The discussion is whether the council will a) adjust state red snapper recreational catch limits, b) modify vermilion snapper, c) modify gray triggerfish catch level, and d) modify lane snapper annual catch limits.
Check the calendar for other council meeting info, but know there’s a public comment portion.
To be clear up front, adjusting state red snapper limits likely won’t apply to Louisiana or Florida, and, boiled down, the issue appears to be the difference in how red snapper are counted between federal fisheries managers and state fisheries managers in Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.
The federal folks use the Marine Resources Information Program, a system of estimating recreational catch, and a system decried for years by many marine biologists — including those in the pre-Gov. John Bel Edwards administration — for its lack of timely information and a seeming inability to accurately estimate the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper stock.
What happened was Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, spearheaded a move to get $10 million for a more intense — and independent — red snapper stock assessment. The reassessment from the federal folks estimate of 36 million in the Gulf red snapper stock came in earlier this year and the new “independent” study came up with a stock at 100 million-plus.
To put that in perspective, Louisiana’s annual recreational quota is slightly more than 800,000 pounds, and if the same recreational percentages were applied to a 100 million pound estimate, our state’s recreational offshore fishermen would have a 2.24 million-pound quota.
Would it be that we could catch maybe four red snapper per trip (at a 16-inch minimum size) or even increase the season length?
The independent assessment brings into question the impetus behind this week’s Gulf Council meeting. The federal folks are trying to bring the recreational catch estimate in line with their MRIP data, and there’s every reason to believe their numbers are skewed.
It’s been a long-held belief that the first thing folks entering state and federal positions is a crash course in Bureaucracy 101 or some such number to take it to a graduate-level course.
The course’s first lesson is preserving your job, and clinging to MRIP as the be-all, end-all of fisheries management falls somewhere in applying that first B101 chapter.
With federal folks insisting Gulf states come in line with MRIP is akin to equipping our modern military with flintlock muskets. Congress already has laid low many of the extant federal fisheries policies during the past six years, and it appears it needs to take even more steps.
And, know this, it took all five Gulf states to push for state recreational red snapper management and these five states better lock arms again this week.
The latest from the Gulf Council concerns cobia. The latest Gulf-wide stock assessment shows this species is not overfished but is “currently experiencing overfishing,” all of which means there could be a 30% decrease from the current allowable catch.
Federal redfish management begins three miles off the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts and nine miles off the Texas and Florida coast. The council wants to move to a nine-mile limit for all five states — finally.
Here’s hoping the first big week of the deer season went well for you, and you’ve got wholesome venison in your freezer, or soon will.
If you have and want to consider helping the less fortunate among us — and that number is swelling by the day — then consider the second phase of the statewide Hunters for the Hungry program.
It’s donating a freshly taken deer.
No, H4H is not asking for you to take from your family. This is about the excess, deer you take but cannot use while the venison is wholesome food.
There are 55 processors across Louisiana, businesses which will turn your deer into protein for soup kitchens and other shelters.
H4H suggests you can keep the backstrap and tenderloins, and some of the processors need you only to field dress the deer before turning it over to them. The venison stays in the communities served by the processors, of which there are 30 across south Louisiana and two in Natchez, Mississippi.
The second phase collected more than 800 deer statewide last season.
And with #GivingTuesday coming this week, you might consider a donation to H4H to offset the costs of processing the deer.
For details go to this website: h4hla.org.
This week’s LWFC
A update on feral hog control, a notice for changing yo-yo/trotline rules on Lake Bruin and a summary of Wildlife and Fisheries’ assistance in the CARES Act tops Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting agenda.
On losing a friend
Ruffin Rodrigue died last week. He was a dear friend, a very welcoming man with a heart for people and a head for running a wonderful restaurant. Condolences to his family and many friends. He will be missed, especially his warm, cheerful smile. He will be missed — mightily.