How far are you willing to go to protect your right to fish?

On August 27, 2014, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will once again entertain a vote to divide the recreational fishing community into a ‘for-hire’ sector and a ‘private angler’ sector by divvying up the allotted recreational fishing quota.  The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and many other recreational fishing clubs and organizations stand united on the effort to stop the sector separation discussion at the regional council level, and they’re encouraging members to participate in the discussion.

“This red snapper sector separation is coming to a head and about to explode,” said Capt. Tom Adams of Mexico Beach, FL.  “If you are one of the thousands here locally that love to fish for red snapper and still want to in the future, now is the time to actually do something about it.”

If you live along the Florida Panhandle or anywhere within driving distance, join Capt. Adams and others tonight at the Holiday Inn across from the Panama City Mall at 6 p.m.  Public hearings on the sector separation scheme are going on throughout the Gulf of Mexico, with tonight’s meeting planned in Panama City, FL at 2001 Martin Luther King Boulevard.  Click here for meeting schedule.

RFA is encouraging saltwater anglers to attend a nearby hearing to show opposition, but the real battle against the regulatory dismantling of the recreational fishing community will come on August 27th in Biloxi, MS when the Gulf Council is expected to vote again on the sector separation scheme.  National, state and local recreational fishing organizations are calling upon members to do whatever it takes to get to Mississippi for this meeting.

“There are free buses available from Mexico Beach and Panama City to get you there and back quickly and safely,” said Capt. Adams, adding that folks interested in taking the ride to stand up for the recreational fishing community could contact him in Mexico Beach at 850-381-1313, or Capt. Anderson’s Marina in Panama City at 850-234-3435.

RFA executive director Jim Donofrio hopes the effort to pack busses for the trip to Biloxi on August 27th will pick up momentum in other areas of the Gulf as well.  “More information about this important vote and what it means for the recreational fishing community as a whole is arriving at local tackle shops and marinas, we hope people can pick up one of the flyers and figure out a way to get to that Mississippi meeting later this month.

In a widely circulated email bulletin this past January, Donofrio encouraged anglers to speak out against sector separation, explaining how the federal government is using the regional council process to divide the saltwater angling community into have’s and have not’s, without any reasonable harvest data to guide their decision. “The Commerce Department and its National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is allowing the recreational fishing sector to be ripped apart piece by piece, without ever meeting their congressional mandate to provide better data,” he said at the time.

“If the council votes to divide us, and the private anglers get less quota because a handful of dual-permit holders and restaurateurs are granted red snapper ownership, it’s essentially the end of the road for the recreational fishing sector, and a new era for those associated with Environmental Defense Fund,” Donofrio said.

RFA believes that with sensible reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act this fall and commitment from NOAA Fisheries to fix the recreational data collection problems, the need for schemes like sector separation and recreational catch shares will be rendered moot.  For that reason, it’s important that as many saltwater anglers as possible are in attendance for the August 27th meeting in Biloxi to show the overwhelming opposition to the sector separation effort.

Council members need to see their constituents out in Biloxi – they need to see how important this issue is to you before they cast your vote at the Council!

Click here for the Biloxi or Bust brochure being distributed at local tackle shops and marinas throughout the Gulf of Mexico.