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Entries in Gulf of Mexico (26)

Thursday
Jul172014

Feds Threaten Recreational Red Snapper Fishery

Recreational fishing for red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico could become a thing of the past if anglers don't stand up and voice their outrage over a proposal by the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. Even worse, if the council is not stopped, a precedent will be set and a model established for privatizing other sport fisheries in public waters.

This is the good ol' Catch Shares scheme that Activist Angler has been warning about for several years.

Here is what the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation has to say:

Federal management of Gulf red snapper is allowing only nine recreational fishing days in 2014 for a variety of reasons, including overly rigid statutory requirements, lawsuits and political influence by commercial and environmental organizations.

Rather than work to develop real solutions to the challenges facing recreational red snapper management, the Council is proposing to create further division and infighting among stakeholders by subdividing the recreational sector. The recreational fishing community has a small window of time to stop this troubling amendment from moving forward, but we must organize and act quickly.

And here's a joint statement from the sportfishing industry

The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council is currently moving ahead on a proposed amendment that will pit segments of the recreational fi shing community against each other without addressing the fundamental problems with recreational red snapper management.

Amendment 40, also known as “sector separation”, will divide the recreational angler’s 49% share of the snapper fishery roughly in half between private recreational anglers and charter-for-hire and head boat owners (even though many charter boat owners don’t support dividing the recreational catch).

Federal management of Gulf red snapper has been brought to such an abysmal point of only 9 recreational days in 2014 for a variety of reasons, including overly rigid statutory requirements, lawsuits and political influence by commercial and environmental organizations. Rather than work to develop real solutions to the challenges facing recreational red snapper management, the Council is proposing to create further division and infighting among stakeholders by subdividing the recreational sector. The recreational fishing community has a small window of time to stop this troubling amendment from moving forward, but we must mobilize and act quickly.

Call to Action – The next two Gulf Council meetings will decide the fate of our access to our fishery, and these meetings are our last chance to turn the tide. You need to be there for the day of the public hearing (TBD) and speak out against sector separation. Visit Keep America Fishing for updates on the day and time for the critical public testimony.

August 25 - 29, 2014

Beau Rivage

875 Beach Blvd.

Biloxi, MS 39530

 

October 20 - 24, 2014

Renaissance Battle House

26 N. Royal Street

Mobile, AL 36602

 

When it comes to Council decisions, personal testimony at the meetings can be the deciding factor. Attend the public hearings and speak against dividing the recreational component into two different sectors because:

• Dividing the recreational sector further by expanding the commercial model to half of the recreational sector isn’t a solution, it’s a recipe for more hardships with many charter boat owners and all private recreational anglers. The solution is not to divide the recreational community, but to collectively push for a system of management that is appropriate for the entire recreational sector.

• Despite what the commercial industry and environmental groups proclaim, recreational anglers (both private and for-hire components) have been “accountable." We abide by the regulations and do what we are asked to do. It’s the federal system of fisheries management that has been “unaccountable” and failed the recreational community as a whole.

This type of management philosophy, for all practical purposes, will effectively eliminate the red snapper recreational season in federal waters for the private angler. It will be nearly impossible for someone to trailer their boat to the Gulf or schedule vacation around what will likely be two or three days of snapper season.

NOAA Fisheries has failed to provide any credible analysis of the economic impacts of this course of management.

This isn’t just a threat for Gulf of Mexico red snapper anglers. If the red snapper recreational component in the Gulf is allowed to be divided and privatized, it will set a precedent and create a model for other popular sportfish fisheries in the Gulf and along a coast near you.

Monday
Apr282014

Tuna Possible Casualties from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

More bad news has surfaced about the long-term consequences from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists say the pollutant can cause severe defects in the developing hearts of bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

The 2010 spawning season coincided directly with the spill, meaning floating embryos were exposed to large surface slicks as oil gushed from the damaged wellhead.

“We know from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound that recently spawned fish are especially vulnerable to crude oil toxicity,” says Nat Scholz, head of the ecotoxicology program for NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “That spill taught us to pay close attention to the formation and function of the heart.”

Scientists add that affected fish likely would have died soon after hatching. Additionally, scientists know from previous research that survivors of exposure to crude oil can suffer subtle and transient changes in heart rhythm during development. These changes can permanently impair heart function and swimming ability at later life stages.

“This creates a potential for delayed mortality,” says one scientist. “Swimming is everything for these species.

And evidence that the threat is still out there appeared last June, when a 40,000-pound (20 tons) tar mat was discovered in the surf off Grand Terre Island. Considered hazardous to marine life, the mat reportedly was made of up 15 percent oil and 85 percent sand, shells, and water.

Also, a report last spring revealed the damage done to dolphins, sea turtles, and killifish, a common forage fish at the base of the food web.

“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). “Dolphins are still dying in high numbers in the areas affected by oil. These ongoing deaths—particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin—are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”

All this is not to say that the fishing is not good along the coast and in the Gulf or that it will deteriorate in the next few years. The truth is that we just don’t know what the long-term consequences will be.

But evidence certainly suggests that fish and other wildlife immediately exposed to the crude oil were harmed and some species continue to be.  

That means we haven’t seen the end of this disaster. No one can legitimately declare that damages have been mitigated, or that our wildlife, marshes, barrier islands, and offshore habitat are “cleaned up.”

“It is crucial that impacted regions of the Gulf implement restoration projects that are based upon the best available science, and to spend every single dime of the penalty money from the spill wisely,” says NWF. “That is our priority. The Vanishing Paradise campaign is focused on these goals as we continue our work in all five of the Gulf states. In Louisiana, that means two things:

  • Supporting the implementation of the Louisiana State Master Plan
  • Ensuring the integrity of the financial mechanisms that fill the gaps between Plan-Funding- and Restoration

“The moral of the story is that the Gulf is still hurting, four years after the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Recovery and restoration are far from complete.”

Tuesday
Feb182014

Exotics Take a Bite Out of Wetlands

Nutria photo from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website.

Most anglers know that Asian carp are harming this nation’s fisheries, from the Upper Midwest down to the Gulf Coast and eastward through the Ohio River watershed.

What many do not realize, however, is that other exotics also are doing severe damage. They don’t receive as much publicity because their range is more limited.

But in Louisiana, the nutria, a large rodent, is devouring the wetlands, destroying spawning and nursery habitat for a multitude of important sport fisheries. In fact, the state estimates that damage at any given time is about 46,000 acres, as about 5 million of the web-footed animals with large, orange teeth feed on the roots and stalks of aquatic plants.

Additionally, the giant apple snail also is taking a giant bite out of the wetlands. They’ve been banned from the state since 2012, but that was too late to keep them from becoming a destructive force, courtesy of irresponsible hobbyists who dumped their aquariums into waterways.

“They eat a ton of plant material, anything they can get their tiny little mouths on,” said Michael Massimi of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. “You are converting a water body from one dominated by plants to one dominated by algae.”

Asian carp, tiger prawns, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia also are among the exotic species doing damage to Louisiana’s coastal system.

Some limited good news is that the state’s nutria control plan, implemented in 2002, has lessened the impact of these furbearers, which were imported during the 1930s and promoted as a way to combat water hyacinth and other invasive plants during the 1940s.

Giant apple snails also are gobbling up wetlands.

Still the cumulative effect of these invaders is significant for an ecosystem already under siege. First came decades of habitat degradation and mismanagement, most of it originating from development and water diversions. These actions accelerated erosion and saltwater intrusion, which are crumbling away the equivalent of a football field every hour.

Then came the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its aftermath, which added to the peril of an ecosystem that is critical for sustaining the food web of the Gulf of Mexico.

Fortunately, the spill also provided impetus for passage of the RESTORE Act, which provides a rare opportunity to restore and enhance the Delta and its wetlands. Guiding that restoration is a multi-state, multi-agency group known as the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

And a coalition known as Vanishing Paradise is working to make sure that Council members remember the importance of habitat restoration, which can drive and support economic recovery.

“The people, business, communities, and economy of this region are undeniably reliant upon a healthy and productive Gulf, and ecosystem restoration should be the top priority,” said spokesman Ben Weber.

Sadly, passing legislation and creating coalitions will do little to counter the damage already being done by established exotic species, including the nutria and giant apple snail.

But something could be done to lessen the likelihood of future harmful invasions in Louisiana’s marshes and wetlands, as well as other waterways nationwide. Congress needs to strengthen the Lacey Act, which prohibits the import and trade of harmful species.

Here is how bad the problem is: Since the act’s implementation more than a century ago, only about 40 animal groups have been prohibited, and that usually occurred long after they were imported, escaped into the wild, and started doing damage.

By modernizing the Lacey Act, Congress could empower the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to first assess the potential risks associated with a species proposed for import before deciding whether to allow or prohibit its trade in the United States. The ineffectiveness of the current law is easily evidenced by Burmese pythons in the Everglades, Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes, and giant apple snails joining nutria in gobbling up Louisiana’s wetlands.

Sunday
Jan192014

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 gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org  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.

 

Friday
Nov152013

Texas A&M to Build Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation

Texas sea trout, caught and released while fishing out of Redfish Lodge. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Texas A&M will build a Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) at its Harte Research Institute (HRI) in Corpus Christi.

 “The Island University is excited to have the first center of its kind in the nation dedicated to advancing sportfish management, science, and conservation,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, president and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “The new Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation will position the University as a national and international leader in addressing issues related to sportfish.”

Recreational saltwater fishing in Texas generates more than $981 million dollars in retail sales each year with more than 750,000 saltwater anglers supporting an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion dollars.

“We will contribute the expertise and the leadership needed to help ensure that the state’s multi-billion dollar recreational fisheries continue to thrive for future generations,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, executive director of the HRI. “The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation will provide a robust base of scientific knowledge to assure that the best decisions are made in managing fisheries and marine environments.”

Dr. Greg Stunz, director of the CSSC and Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health at the HRI, added that both inshore and offshore, many challenges confront maintaining healthy sportfish populations. These threats include a changing environment that is seeing diminished freshwater inflows to estuaries; habitat loss due to coastal development; and increasing pressure from commercial fisheries.

“The Center will address the most critical issues and problems affecting sport fisheries today,” said Stunz. “Our team is ready to take on the challenges facing the recreational fishing industry along the Texas coast and the Gulf of Mexico.”

In November 2012, the Coastal Conservation Association-Texas (CCA-Texas) pledged $500,000 to support the CSSC.  CCA Texas is a leader in restoring the fisheries for spotted sea trout and red drum, advocating for freshwater inflows to Texas estuaries, habitat restoration, and education.

 CSSC will provide hands-on research opportunities for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi graduate and undergraduate students. It also will be a hub for marine research for the Texas A&M University System and scientists interested in marine fisheries investigations.