On March 13th, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) issued a bulletin urging Gulf of Mexico saltwater anglers to respond to a proposal by fisheries managers to provide up to 100% of any red snapper quota above the 9.12-million-pound mark to the recreational sector.
Recreational fishing in the Gulf and across the entire country is a very traditional activity. Fishing brings families together as illustrated by the often referenced image of a grandfather taking his grandchild fishing for the first time. Yet, this Rockwell-type scenario simply cannot play out under the current allocation scheme for red snapper because there is literally no room for new participants, even grandkids.
The RFA bulletin explained how many commercial red snapper permit holders have united with seafood wholesalers and the restaurant industry nationwide to keep you from enjoying the success of a rebuilding red snapper stock. A recent court decision favoring Environmental Defense Fund in their lawsuit on behalf of red snapper quota owners means more rigid restrictions on recreational anglers in the future, and could very well cost more significant days from our already shortened red snapper season in the Gulf.
Essentially, if “fatally flawed” recreational data collection efforts show that saltwater anglers have reached their miniscule annual allotment of red snapper, the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery will be shut down. The healthier the stock gets, the easier it is to land a red snapper, the quicker the recreational allocation is met and the shorter the following season.
The current allocation does not provide Council with the ability to set a reasonable season and at the same time allow the fishery to be accessed by the public. For this reason alone, Council members must acknowledge that the commercial/recreational allocation must be tipped toward the public interest. That is why RFA has officially supported Alternative 6 in the amendment to set a 9.12-million-pound baseline with 100% of the allowable harvest above that mark going to the recreational sector. RFA believes this alternative will prevent the recreational red snapper season from decreasing as the stock rebuilds, thereby giving the recreational sector more access to the red snapper resource.
(For RFA’s official comments go to https://joinrfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/GulfRedSnapper.pdf)
RFA believes that one of the most important, yet equally ludicrous and absurd regional fishery council meetings in recent memory will be held on Wednesday, April 9th as the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meets at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Baton Rouge, LA. At approximately 1:30 p.m. the council will open public comment on several proposals, including a final draft of Reef Fish Amendment 28 regarding red snapper allocation. Thanks to the heavy financial influence of environmental groups in their anti angling efforts, Amendment 28 is the only reasonable option to keep our Gulf anglers fishing for red snapper in the months ahead.
The management process has officially been hijacked by the environmental community, and RFA as an organization on behalf of our members has had enough of the backroom dealings, manipulation and bureaucratic rhetoric. Our Gulf anglers are tripping over red snapper; wherever you want to drop a line over a piece of structure in the Gulf of Mexico, you’re tripping over red snapper. Yet ever since the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act in 2006 and NOAA Fisheries’ failure to implement congressionally mandated changes to the recreational data collection efforts, our coastal saltwater anglers in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida are allowed to fish less for this iconic species.
RFA has not been silent about this takeover effort; these same environmental groups were able to create blanket ‘no access’ reserves along the West Coast through very direct legislative support. Their strategy for the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico however has been different; rather than direct legislation to create marine reserves, the environmental groups are taking over the region through private ownership schemes, first dividing the sectors into pieces and then selling off the individual parts by way of fish tags and catch shares.
It’s time for saltwater anglers to unite in opposition to this takeover; and it is time for the members of the Gulf Council tell NOAA Fisheries that anglers know what’s going on – and enough is enough. Despite the fact that some radical, anti-recreational fishing industry activists are telling us to sit down and shut up, Gulf red snapper anglers who are able to respond should plan to make their voices heard on Wednesday, April 9th at 1:30 p.m.
RFA has no plans to sit back and let this takeover continue – we are asking our anglers and business leaders to join us in the response in Baton Rouge, LA next week.
It’s time to take back our conservation moniker from showroom environmentalists who have hijacked the process; recreational fishermen want to conserve these fisheries for our children and grandchildren, but we will not allow the preservationists to steal the resource away from the public through privatization schemes.
RFA has already submitted our official comments on Reef Fish Amendment 28 in support of shifting 100% of any total combined commercial and recreational quota in excess of 9.12 million pounds of red snapper to the recreational sector in the Gulf of Mexico; we are now asking anglers and business owners to make their comments known.
If you can make it Louisiana this coming week, RFA encourages you to do so – RFA will be there, hope you are too!
Gulf Council Meeting
April 7-10, 2014
4914 Constitution Ave.
Baton Rouge, LA 70808