There’s no simple way to digest what’s happened this year in Louisiana’s outdoors.
The continuing battle over red snapper permeated 2015 and leaves the question about how and why certain environmental groups are engaged so heavily on the commercial side in this allocation of what appears to be a nearly fully recovered fishery resource in the western Gulf of Mexico.
Despite mandates in federal fisheries laws, federal managers and the majority on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council continue to violate the law when it comes to red snapper allocation. Even worse is the fisheries managers’ intransigence when it comes to changes in stock assessment procedures and strident allocation formulas.
Hope is on the way: Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves and Alabama Senator Richard Shelby have introduced legislation that will push federal managers to turn over red snapper management to the Gulf States and direct the GMFMC to use alternative methods of estimating red snapper numbers. Federal workers have never estimated snapper populations around artificial reefs, including oil and gas platforms.
That latter item alone has allowed federal managers to hide behind a shield of what they believe to be valid information but, during the past five years, can be viewed as a roadblock to keep recreational anglers from gaining additional allocation to a sustainable western Gulf snapper population.
Louisiana’s marine fisheries biologists and survey teams have stood tall in this population-allocation battle, and this year marks a high-water mark for this Wildlife and Fisheries’ division.
They’ve given our state LA Creel, a method combining hard work and producing more accurate data that’s become a modern road map for estimating catch and allowing fishermen more days to take from an abundant resource — and stay within the confines of annual quotas. From all indications, LA Creel will be a model for other states to better and more accurately estimate catch rates, and should pave the way for Graves’ measure to turn over reef-fish management to the states.
Once again, we’ve come through this year celebrating, and moaning, about the vagaries of what hundreds of thousands of us Louisianans cherish in our Sportsman’s Paradise.
For 18 of the past 20 years, Louisiana led the country in the number of ducks taken by our hunters — although goose hunters continue to wonder where specklebellies have gone — and we continue to have liberal limits of speckled trout and redfish and most of the fish species managed by our state. Yes, there are down times, but somehow we manage to come through those slack periods and enjoy the bounty for our tables.
We continue to wonder about the long-range effects of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and we can thank the Almighty for sparing us from the ravages of the hurricane season.