As the Fishing Rights Alliance (FRA) so eloquently put it, recreational anglers “just got the shaft.”
That’s because the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council ignored the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) and massive opposition from the public to pass Amendment 40, which creates “sector separation” for the red snapper fishery.
The recreational quota for red snapper in federal waters now will be divided between “for-hire” and private anglers. And guess who’s getting the lion’s share of that quota?
“While the council's vote created the two new components, the recreational sector's 5.39 million-pounds share of the 11 million-pounds Gulfwide red snapper quota will not be split right down the middle,” says Al.com
“Preliminary estimates suggest the for-hire component will be allocated about 40 percent of the total, based on 50 percent of their landings between 1986 and 2013 and 50 percent between 2006 and 2013.”
In other words, if you are an angler with your own boat, you might as well forget about fishing for red snapper in the Gulf for at least the next three years.
"It's very disappointing that you have this level of opposition from anglers, elected officials, state fishery managers and even within the charter industry itself and it still wasn't enough to prevent this flawed management plan from moving forward," says Ted Venker, Conservation Director of the Coastal Conservation Association.
But not at all surprising, coming from an administration that wants to regulate every aspect of our lives, including when and where we can fish. That was evident early on when President Obama created the National Ocean Council, with the intent to “zone” uses of our waters, including inland. And when NOAA began pushing Catch Shares as a management strategy for our fisheries.
Catch Shares basically privatizes a public resource, and “segment separation” is a tactic that the feds used to divide and conquer the recreational sector, as some charter captains bought into the idea. (Catch Shares, though, isn't yet being used to manage red snapper.)
The FRA, however, says, “This ain’t over until we say it’s over,” and vows to fight the amendment. Go here to join the fight.
Here’s an excerpt of the CSC’s letter to the Council:
The suddenly accelerated speed at which the Council seeks to subdivide the recreational red snapper fishery into two individual components or “sectors” is unacceptable for an action that will likely have far reaching impacts on local communities, the economy, state-based conservation funding, thousands of recreational anglers, and ultimately the charter/for-hire industry for which it is meant to help.
A decision of this magnitude requires careful deliberation and calculated safeguards to ensure that the best interest of the American public is first and foremost. Furthermore, there are several concerns regarding
potential statutory violations that must be fully explored and resolved before moving forward with any such fundamental change to the interpretation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the way we manage marine recreational fisheries in the United States.
We fear thorough analysis of these concerns has not been sufficiently undertaken by NOAA Fisheries or the Council relative to Amendment 40.
It is difficult to understand why red snapper management is so unique that it requires such a radical departure from methods that have successfully managed the vast majority of our fish and terrestrial wildlife resources. Indications are that the red snapper stock is recovering well ahead of schedule, which suggests that the current problems with red snapper are not biological, but rather man-made.
It appears that some failure of our federal fisheries policy is producing a system in which access to a healthy fishery resource is being funneled through fewer and fewer entities. Unnecessarily restricting public access to a sustainable resource is an undesirable and untenable result for any wildlife resource management system, and one that should be avoided at all costs.