For years now, I’ve been warning about Catch Shares, a scheme by the Obama Administration to privatize public saltwater fisheries by dividing them into “shares.” When/if such a strategy is applied to a recreational or mixed (recreational and commercial) it would cap participation, denying recreational anglers access to public waters.
Related to this threat, is a push by environmental groups and the commercial sector to reduce the share of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico reserved for recreational fishing. As I reported at Activist Angler in May, Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster) believes that anglers should get less and commercials more.
Right now, commercials get 51 percent and recreation 49, even though sports fishing is far more valuable economically than is commercial fishing.
Here’s the latest, as reported by the Outdoor Hub:
In a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee on June 27, EDF’s Pam Baker specifically asked members of Congress to consider catch shares as a new way of managing our coastal anglers. “For example, states can try methods such as harvest tags, similar to those used to allot hunting privileges for limited game populations like deer and elk,” Baker said, explaining how “tags could be allocated throughout the year to accommodate tourist seasons, tournaments, and other priorities.”
Very similar to the lead balloon introduced by a conservation group at the Gulf Council back in 2009, Baker and EDF suggest that “Angler management organizations, which receive a given amount of fish to distribute at the local level and allow anglers to manage themselves in cooperation with regulators, also have promise.”
RFA (Recreational Fishing Alliance) and its members were quick in leading the charge in the Gulf region in 2012 to rally opposition to a plan which would have separated the recreational sector into sharply divided pieces. The Council ultimately held off on voting on the plan, but regrettably that means that the idea is still in place.
“It’s hard to believe but we have some members of our fishing community who’ve already compromised away some fairly critical positions, first giving in to cap and trade fisheries policies as being appropriate for the commercial sector, and now yielding to the concept of trading shares amongst the charter and head boat community,” RFA's Jim Donofrio said. “EDF is running towards the goal-line with this new plan to privatize all fisheries, and unless anglers fight back now I really believe it could be the end of recreational fishing as we know it.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will be meeting Oct. 28-Nov. 1 in New Orleans, and the Share the Gulf coalition said it plans to alert members of the restaurant and seafood communities, elected officials, and consumers of these plans and their dire economic consequences. It is expected that all of the EDF ‘catch share’ supporting members will be in attendance for these meetings.
Representing RFA in an effort to fight for the rights of recreational anglers will be Capt. Tom Adams and Capt. Buddy Bradham. Join Capt. Buddy this Saturday starting at 4 p.m. at the Fat Cat Tavern in Tri-Cities Plaza, 16080 US Hwy 19 North in Clearwater, Fla., for an open discussion on fisheries management.
“I listened to the testimony at the Pensacola, Florida, Gulf Council meeting and got very confused,” Capt. Bradham said. “A group of New Orleans chefs were there testifying about how the commercial fishermen needed more quota because they could not keep enough fish at their restaurants to supply the American consumer, yet the commercial fishermen were testifying that they wanted the Gulf Council to move forward with the inter-sector trading plan to allow commercial fishermen to lease quota to charter boats and recreational fishermen.”
“I am still scratching my head,” Capt. Bradham added. “Do the commercial fishermen want to fish for the chefs and American consumer or do they just want to sit back and lease their quota to the recreational sector? They can’t have it both ways.”