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Raging Over Red Snapper
by Sam Hudson
red snapper
Doug Olander
They're everywhere! Gulf anglers can't get away from red snapper these days.

The unending red snapper saga in the Gulf of Mexico continues, proving exactly how valuable fish populations are to southeastern coastal states.

Down here, recreational and commercial fishermen battle each other for strict catch quotas set by NOAA Fisheries (NMFS)

In July of this year, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to increase the 2013 red snapper total quota from 8.46 million pounds (mp) to 11 mp. Split between the two groups, commercial fishermen received 5.610 mp and recreational anglers were handed 5.390.

From an outsider's perspective, that seems fair, right? Both fishing groups received about 50 percent of the pot, and both bumped up from last year's totals. In 2012, commercial fishermen were allocated 4.121 mp and recreational anglers 3.959 mp.  

Internally, it's a completely different story.

Neither side likes the harsh regulations put forth on them by government fish regulators. And neither side is sympathetic to the other's position. TV media likes to portray the causes of recreational and commercial fishing as similar, but a quick fact-check shows that they are world's apart.

Behind the Recreational Powerhouse

Recreational fishing as a whole is an economic juggernaut when compared to commercial fishing's limited value. According to the American Sportfishing Association in 2012:

  • Saltwater landings by anglers contributed three times more to the national gross domestic product (GDP, or value-added) than commercial landings. 
  • The recreational sector added $152.24 in value-added, or GDP, for one pound of fish landed, compared to the commercial sector’s $1.57 for a single pound of fish.
  • For every 100,000 pounds landed there were 210 recreational fishing jobs but only 4.5 jobs in the commercial fishing industry.

Even with obvious economic potency to back them, many recreational red snapper anglers feel like they are being prohibited from a natural resource -- and at the expense of commercial fishermen. Some go further, saying that fish regulators from the Gulf Council are allowing red snapper to be privatized for special interests.