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Entries in Gulf of Mexico (46)


Lionfish Challenge Closes With 16,609 Harvested

Participants killed 16,609 lionfish in Florida's Lionfish Challenge, which closed Sept. 30.

“The success of this program really shows what Florida’s residents and visitors can do when faced with a conservation challenge such as lionfish,” said Brian Yablonski, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chairman.

Lionfish are a nonnative species that were first noted in Florida waters in the mid-80s and have since spread up the Atlantic coast and across the Gulf of Mexico. They are prolific and feed heavily on native fish, especially juveniles and smaller species. Human removal is the only way to keep their numbers in check.

The Lionfish Challenge rewarded participants who took 50 or more lionfish with a variety of incentives including a program T-shirt, a commemorative coin, the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season and entry into raffle drawings for prizes such as Neritic polespears, $100 dive tank refills and fishing licenses.

The competition began on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, the first Saturday after Mother’s Day.

Volusia County resident David Garrett took the most lionfish with a total of 3,324. John Dickinson came in second with a total of 2,408 lionfish removed.

“I want the reefs to benefit from this and to save our native fish,” said David Garrett, who is a commercial fisherman.

Garrett will be officially crowned Lionfish King at the Nov. 16 Commission meeting in St. Petersburg. He will also receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license and be featured on the cover of the January 2017 Saltwater Regulations Publication.

Ninety-five people participated in the challenge from across the state and the southeastern United States.

The FWC would like to thank the 34 dive shops across Florida that supported this program by acting as checkpoints. Shops located in the Panhandle continue to participate in the Panhandle Pilot Program.

Panhandle Pilot Program

The Panhandle Pilot Program focuses on lionfish removal efforts off Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. For every 100 lionfish checked in from this seven-county region between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be eligible to receive a tag allowing them to take either a red grouper or a cobia that is over the bag limit from state waters (all other regulations, including seasons and size limits, still apply). The state will issue up to a total of 100 red grouper and 30 cobia tags to successful participants in the pilot program. So far, 38 tags have been issued.

In addition, the first 10 persons or groups that check in 500 or more lionfish during this one-year period will be given the opportunity to name an artificial reef. Four teams have qualified to name an artificial reef so far, and two of the four have already been named.


New Gulf of Mexico Reef Built with Boilers From Alabama Power

An artificial reef is being built in the Gulf of Mexico with two, 100-ton boilers recently removed from Alabama Power facilities, plus a 195-foot barge that will be sunk along with them.

Alabama Power and the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation are partners in the project about 25 miles south of Dauphin Island. Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) helped develop the project.

"Alabama's Marine Resources Division has been a leader for decades with inshore and offshore artificial reef systems," said AWF Executive Director Tim. L. Gothard.

"The Alabama Wildlife Federation firmly believes that properly engineered artificial reefs provide ecological benefits and unique fishing opportunities for anglers--- a true win-win."

Go here for more information and photos.


Gulf States Should Manage Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

Under this administration, recreational fishing for red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico has been diminished to a fraction of what it once was, as the feds have turned over more and more of it to a few commercial operations.

It's time for a change. The Gulf states have better data regarding the health of the fishery and are for more likely to manage based on science than politics. That's why HR 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, needs to be passed by Congress. Here's what its sponsor, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, has to say:   

As Ben Raines’ weekend article in the Times Picayune and illuminated, the federal government has hand-picked dozens of multi-millionaire “Sea Lords” by allowing them to control the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. While these select few “Sea Lords” are making millions from our fish, the season for recreational anglers – who used to be able to fish for red snapper all year long – has been absurdly diminished. In 2015, the recreational red snapper season was 10 days.

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As it stands today, the right to catch 77 percent of the annual red snapper harvest is controlled by just 55 people, according to an analysis of hundreds of pages of federal documents, reports and websites---

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The agency charged with managing our national fishery, the National Marine Fisheries Service, conducted a study on the health of red snapper fish stocks in the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll be shocked to learn that federal government’s methodology and results were grossly inadequate.

Their analysis failed to include reef areas – the actual habitat of red snapper, a reef fish. Think about that. It’s like looking for polar bears in Louisiana, finding none, and declaring the population to be at risk of extinction.

Let me be clear, the sustainability of our fisheries is paramount. It is critical that we employ the best science to responsibly manage them and to support their long-term viability.  It’s no secret that Louisiana is home to some of the nation's top restaurants that rely on the supply of fresh, wild seafood to meet demand. Some argue that expanding recreational access would lead to overfishing and threaten commercial interests.

This mentality has bred the current system of a government sanctioned oligarchy that monopolizes a public resource. And it has punished tens of thousands of families across the Gulf Coast that enjoy fishing in Sportsman’s Paradise. Luckily, there is another way.

In July of last year, I introduced HR 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill simply gives the five Gulf states’ wildlife departments the authority to manage the red snapper that live offshore their coast. This approach favors local control and would transfer management decisions to the professionals who are closest to the fishery.

In Louisiana for example, our Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has demonstrated a commitment to using the best science to sustainably manage our fisheries through efforts like the agency's LA Creel program, which helps to provide an accurate count of red snapper fish stocks in our coastal waters. Today, HR 3094 has nearly 30 bipartisan sponsors from across the nation.

The fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico are public property and should be enjoyed by all - not managed like a long-abandoned "sharecropper" model that enriches a select few.  Sometimes all it takes is a little sunshine on bad policy to fix things.  To quote Herbert Hoover, “all men are equal before fish.”  Let's enact HR 3094 so we can ALL enjoy the Gulf's bounty.



NOAA Continues to Ignore Economic Value of Recreational Fishing

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to ignore the economic value of recreational fishing, and, as a consequence of that, it likely will continue to ignore/undervalue it in its management decisions for species such as Gulf of Mexico red snapper. And that  will translate into allocations that unfairly restrict recreational fishing.The following is a commentary from Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation about that federal favoritism for commercial fishing:

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its annual “Fisheries of the United States” report this week — but once again, when it comes to the economic value of recreational fishing, NOAA entirely missed the boat (excuse the pun).

"That’s because NOAA’s report overlooks the economic impact of recreational fishing entirely — just like last year (and for two years before).

"According to NOAA, commercial fishing generated $5.4 billion in revenues last year. That’s great for our economy and for the commercial fishing sector — as far as it goes.

"But what about the economic contribution of recreational fishing?

"Nada, zero, zip. At least according to the bureaucrats at NOAA.

"It’s as if recreational fishing doesn’t even happen.

"The last time NOAA even looked at the value of recreational fishing, back in 2011, it estimated the economic value at $23.4 billion. For the arithmetically challenged, that’s more than four times the contribution of the commercial sector — and that’s based on 2011 numbers.

"NOAA’s fisheries report is emblematic of the bigger problem in Washington, DC: a tendency to underplay and under-appreciate the much greater economic impact of recreational fishing.

"When Congress reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act, let’s make sure the real story gets told: just taking into account the agency’s 2011 estimates, the $23.4 billion annual economic contribution of recreational fishing dwarfs the $5.4 billion now being touted by NOAA as the value of the commercial sector.

"Federal fisheries policy ought to reflect that fact — not ignore it."


Congress Considers Future for Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

The future of red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico was on the line yesterday in Washington, D.C, as the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will debated HR. 3094--- the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act. This legislation, sponsored by Garret Graves (R-La.), would shift management of red snapper from the federal government and allow the states to manage the entire fishery.

 “We learned a few things in today’s hearing, but the take-home message is that federal management of the Gulf red snapper remains mired in chaos," said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, following the haring.

"We learned that the recreational angling community and all five Gulf States stand united in favor of state management of red snapper. Despite a wave of pre-hearing propaganda, we learned that most charter operators are in favor of the state management because they, too, want an end to the current federal management program of privatization."

Meanwhile, NOAA wants anglers to ignore what they see every day in the Gulf, Angers said, adding that the federal agency "asked Congress to believe that the snapper stock is still only half rebuilt and will not fully recover until 2032."

In other words, the federal government wants to continue to deny reasonable access to recreational anglers, continuing seasons that are 10 days or possibly even shorter. Meanwhile, using  a "catch shares" strategy of divide and conquer in privatizing a public resource, it is supported by the commercial fishing industry and a small group of charter captains who are guaranteed "shares" of the fishery.

"The management agency for every Gulf state has come to the same conclusion as recreational anglers--- federal management of red snapper is a failure," Angers said.

"Recreational anglers--- the people who go fishing on weekends and holidays with their kids and families--- have no voice in federal fisheries management. The recreational community is united in its conviction that the states will bring balance back into the red snapper fishery to do what is necessary to manage it both for the benefit of everyone - commercial, for-hire and recreational anglers--- and for the health of the resource."

Businesses have "relentlessly manipulated the federal system and have already been given personal ownership of a percentage of the red snapper fishery or are on their way to being gifted a share to use as their own, however and whenever they want," said Sport Fishing.

“It is not fair that America’s sportsmen who voluntarily give $1.5 billion annually toward rebuilding fish species and protecting their habitat are being kept at the water’s edge now that the snapper population is healthy again," Angers said.

“Congress should act quickly to pass this important measure that will give legal recognition to the historic cooperative agreement by the Fish and Wildlife agencies of the five Gulf States -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas -- to assume management of the Gulf red snapper.”