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Entries in catch shares (62)


Feds Continue to Ignore Anglers, Push Ahead With 'Sector Separation'


Monday update: Comments link (below) might not work. Thanks to T.J. Stallings for alerting me to this. If that is the case, send your comments to  Also tell your Representatives and Senators about this issue and why you oppose it. The Big-Government know-it-alls are trying their best to ignore us, and it's time to get their attention.

As part of its determined effort to manage every aspect of our lives, including fishing, this administration is pushing ahead with its scheme for “sector separation” in the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper fishery. This is a divide-and-conquer strategy, and it continues despite long and loud opposition from recreational anglers and their advocates.

By promising an allotment for charter captains, the feds intend to split recreational anglers, making them easier to subjugate for Catch Shares.

Under Catch Shares, the federal government turns over a public resource (fish) for private profit. It does so under the guise of better management of the resource, but its real intent is to reduce participation, thereby making federal control easier.

Mostly Catch Shares has been implemented on commercial fisheries. A company or a boat receives a specific “share” of the allotment for a season.

When the scheme is applied to mixed (commercial and recreational) or recreational fisheries, however, it treats sports anglers as a single entity and allots it a single share. Common sense will tell you that this cap will discourage both participation and growth in recreational fishing, which is worth far more economically than commercial fishing.

With “sector separation,” the feds hope that charter captains will forsake recreational fishing and support Catch Shares.

Even if you don't fish for saltwater species, this is something that you should be concerned about and speak up against. This is but one of several ways that this Big-Government administration intends to tell you where you can and cannot fish.

Here’s the latest on this from the Coastal Conservation Association:

The Council let it be known with its stealth release on the afternoon of Christmas Eve that this time, for sure, they really want to know how you feel about Amendment 40 – Sector Separation. And, at the same time, they announced that they don’t really care what you think about sector separation because they went ahead and launched the Headboat sector separation pilot program already. 

What’s the purpose of this public comment thing again? 

The only thing more disingenuous than the Christmas Eve News Dump is the charade of public comment in federal fisheries management on this issue. There is nothing in the glorious history of sector separation that indicates the general public matters in this arena. If it did, then these plans to give away fish to private businesses would have been dead and buried long ago.

Why should we care if yet another comment period is open on plans to divide up the recreational sector and give another small group of business-owners an insurmountable advantage over the general public in the red snapper fishery? The uncomfortable truth is that if we flooded the Council website with comments in opposition to this nine times in the past and washed our hands of it on the 10th time, that 10th time would forever be held up as evidence that this is what the public wants.

As sorry as this whole episode is, we can’t let that happen. 

We must fight this all the way to the end. You have done your part repeatedly and you’ve done it well. This is a battle in which we are struggling not because we are wrong or apathetic, but because the system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to.

We are up against a system that does not understand recreational angling and often acts like it doesn’t want to. You need look no further than the fairly insulting decision to release an announcement of the most controversial federal fisheries amendment in recent history on Christmas Eve. 

This comment period is a chance to OPPOSE SECTOR SEPARATION ONE MORE TIME, and we should take it. But more significantly, it is an opportunity to send the message that millions of recreational anglers cannot be oh-so-casually dismissed. We deserve far better treatment than this.

The comment period on Amendment 40 – Sector Separation is open until Jan. 23. Click HERE to submit comments electronically or submit written comments to: Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

The next meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will take place February 3-6, at the Westin Galleria Hotel, 5060 W. Alabama Street in Houston, Texas.

Also, read what the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have to say about this scheme to privatize and limit participation for public fisheries.



Recreational Fishing for Gulf Red Snapper at Risk

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.”


In Defense of Fishing


Photo by Robert Montgomery

At the bank the other day, the teller told me that I had shortchanged myself a thousand dollars on my deposit slip.

I know why it happened. Each of the checks that I was depositing included a fraction of a dollar. I was so concerned about getting the pennies correct that I neglected to devote sufficient attention to the dollars.

In other words, I focused too much on minor details and completely missed the big picture.

That’s an easy thing to do. Most of us have done it at one time or another, and, fortunately, consequences usually aren’t catastrophic. We have spouses, friends, and friendly tellers to set us straight.

But too many of us are missing the big picture right now regarding the future of recreational fishing, and consequences could be catastrophic.

As the administration leads the country in a direction that the majority of Americans oppose, those who dislike recreational fishing or, at best, are indifferent to it, are using their White House alliances to push for massive federal control of public waters. And here’s the dangerous part:

As conservationists, anglers believe in sustainable use of fisheries, while protecting habitat, opposing pollution, and preserving the resource for future generations to enjoy.         

By contrast those pushing an anti-fishing agenda are preservationists who believe in “look but don’t touch.” They assert that humans exist apart from nature, rather than as a part of it. They think that we act immorally when we manage or alter it in any way.

Consequently, the big picture is that a concerted effort is underway to deny us access to a public resource, and, in so doing, to deny and destroy a significant portion of our history, culture, and economy --- not to mention our right to enjoy a day on the water with friends and family.

Granted, the movement is only now gaining momentum. Chances are, if you live inland, you might not see any closures in your life time. But the snowball has begun to roll downhill.

Arguably, it began when environmentalists convinced President George W. Bush to designate two remote areas in the Pacific as marine reserves. It has strengthened with the recently created National Ocean Council, which has been given authority to zone uses of our oceans, coastal waters, and Great Lakes, as well as the option to move inland to rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Also, it’s taking shape via the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation Act and  a “catch shares” management strategy in which recreational participation would be capped.

And as preservationists seek to “protect” oceans from anglers, lake associations want to do the same on inland waters. Knowing a good excuse when they see one, they insist that closures of public access areas are needed to prevent spread of invasive species.

Inland access might seem unrelated to the ocean management. But they are two fronts of the same battle.

You need only look to California to see what is coming our way. Fisheries are falling one after the other, like dominoes, as emotion trumps science-based fisheries management.

Mostly the closures are coming under the auspices of the state Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).        But they’re also occurring through local regulations. Four out of five members of the Laguna Beach City Council supported a five-year moratorium on recreational fishing along its 7 miles of coast.

“There’s no such thing as a five-year moratorium,” said dissenter Kelly Boyd. “You turn something over to the state and you’ll never get it back.”

Dave Connell, an angry angler, added, “We’re fighting a fad, an environmental extremist wacko fad about closing the ocean. I do not know what their agenda is, but it is not to save the fish. It is not to keep the ocean clean.”

For our side, the fishing industry is spearheading a Keep America Fishing campaign. In particular, member Shimano deserves recognition. Along with donating $100,000 a year and considerable staff time annually to the cause, it has been one of the most outspoken critics of the way in which the MLPA has been implemented.

As a consequence, it has been the target of the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups, who have deep pockets with which to voice their zealotry. Filled with invective and inaccuracy, the Shame on Shimano website is but one example.

"The 'Shame on Shimano' campaign by NRDC is an outrageous misrepresentation of the facts about a company who has led the outdoor industry in supporting scientific research, habitat improvement, youth programs and fishery conservation efforts across North America for twenty years," said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF).

Starting to see the big picture yet?


EDF Wants More Punishment for Recreational Anglers, Says RFA

The Gulf of Mexico is ground zero for the assault on recreational angling. That’s because commercial fishermen are colluding with the anti-fishing Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to further restrict the red snapper fishery for sport fishermen.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) asserts that a lawsuit “argues how recreational fishermen aren’t being punished enough by our federal government.”

It also says this:

The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance is a group of commercial fishermen in the Gulf, specifically owners of individual fishing quota (IFQ) and red snapper ‘catch shares’ – who are themselves supported financially by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). 

“The lawsuit through K&L Gates would force more restrictive accountability measures on recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico.

“An ‘accountability measure’ is punishment for catching too many fish; one such punishment is an in-season closure, another is a harvest payback of any overage.  The final ‘accountability measure’ which would forever change the way we fish is the IFQ or ‘catch share’ for the recreational sector.

Catch Shares is a scheme pushed insistently by this administration to manage fisheries by turning a public resource into a private commodity. Mostly it is directed at commercial fisheries, as individuals are allotted shares of the overall allowed harvest. But if used with a mixed fishery, it could have catastrophic consequences for recreational angling, as an infinite number of anglers are restricted to a limited collective share.

The reality, meanwhile, is that recreational anglers harvest only about 2 percent of marine species. Commercials take the rest. Yet recreational fishing, with minimal harvest, is more beneficial to the economy.

RFA is soliciting help to combat this attack. Go here to learn more.



Fed Joins Assault on Bass in Northwest

No evidence exists that big smallmouths like this have contributed to the decline of salmon in the Northwest. But anti-bass bias persists.

That haze you see above the White House is from the smoking gun of anti-angling bias.

Most alarmingly, this time the shot was fired at bass fishing.

That’s right. No longer are saltwater anglers the only ones under assault from an administration just beginning its second term. Now the danger has moved inland, and “plausible deniability” is going to be far less convincing with this latest assault.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is encouraging the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to remove size and bag limits for bass in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and their tributaries. Additionally, it says that an alternate proposal to remove daily limits but limit harvest to three fish over 15 inches “would imply a desire by WDFW to maintain a healthy population of large, non-native predators.”

And, no, we must not have that. Never mind that the Columbia River arguably is one of the top two or three smallmouth bass fisheries in the United States.

And never mind that 25 to 30 percent of anglers in the Northwest now fish for non-native warmwater species, including walleye and channel catfish, as well as bass.

“What we’ve seen the last 20 to 30 years is a noticeable shift in anglers who prefer warmwater fish,” says Jeff Dillon of Idaho Fish and Game. “It was 10 percent.  Now, on a statewide basis, it’s more than 20 percent and, in some regions (southwestern) it’s closer to a third.”

And never mind that anglers who fish for bass recreationally and competitively support Northwest economies by spending millions of dollars annually on tackle, boats, tow vehicles, and travel.

No, no, we must eliminate these non-native fish, even though they have been established in the rivers for decades and even though no evidence exists that they harm native salmon and trout populations through predation. NMFS Regional Administrator William Stelle Jr. says as much in his letter:

“While it is difficult to quantify the magnitude of predation by these species on salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act, predation by these species was noted as an increasing threat in NMFS’ recent 5-year ESA status reviews.”

 He also admits that the outcome from waging war on popular warmwater species is questionable:

“The extent to which a regulation change will affect the harvest of these species and thereby reduce predation rates on at-risk salmon and steelhead population is uncertain . . .”

But, hey, let’s do it anyway, even though stomach surveys of bass show that salmon smolts “don’t even make the top 10” among prey species, according to Mark Byrne, conservation director for the Washington B.A.S.S. Nation.

In truth, dams, development, and agriculture have caused the decline of coldwater fisheries by destroying habitat, degrading water quality, altering flows, and blocking migrations. But bass and bass anglers are high profile and easy targets.

No, no bias here.

Just as there is not in the National Ocean Policy, which would “zone” uses of our oceans and Great Lakes, telling us where we can and can’t fish. Just as there is not in heavy-handed enforcement of the Magnuson-Stevens Marine Fishery and Conservation Act, which has devastated coastal fishing communities. Just as there is not in Catch Shares, a scheme to privatize a public resource and, inevitably, limit access.

In truth, none of these are directly anti-fishing. Neither is the NMFS letter. But what all of them reveal is a disregard for the popularity and importance of recreational fishing and a willingness for sportfishing to be collateral damage in the imposition of a preservationist ideology.

President Obama, meanwhile, told Keep America Fishing:

“My administration is committed to maintaining fishing opportunities for America’s fishermen.”

But that does not seem to be the case for the National Park Service, which has limited angler access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and now is attempting to do the same at Florida’s Biscayne National Park.

And it certainly does not seem to be the case for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which would like to obliterate one of the nation’s best bass fisheries.

Someone probably should tell the President that.

(A variation of this opinion piece appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)