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July 28, 2012

Sportsmen’s Caucus Urges Council to Step Back From Unpopular Catch Shares, Sector Separation

According to the Coastal Conservation Association, leaders of the powerful, 300-plus-member U.S. Congressional Sportsmen Caucus have sent a letter to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council warning against continued consideration and promotion of catch shares and sector separation.

In yet another sign of discontent over federal management of the nation’s marine fisheries, co-chairmen of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) have sent a letter to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council expressing the concerns of its membership over the concepts of catch share programs and sector separation. The bipartisan CSC is one of the largest and most effective caucuses in the US Congress with more than 300 members representing almost all 50 states.

“As leaders of the Caucus, we are writing to report that continued consideration and promotion of the management concepts known as sector separation and catch shares by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are causing concern among our members,” CSC co-chairmen Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.) state in the letter. “More specifically, we have serious concerns about the current proposal to further subdivide the recreational fishing allocation by awarding the charter boats with their own guaranteed allocation.”

The CSC goes on to question the process the Gulf Council is using to develop and implement sector separation and catch share programs, and points out that the Council first needs better scientific data, additional economic evaluations and demographic studies to assess how mixed used fisheries would best be reallocated.

“Even if such reallocation issues were analyzed and modified, taking a portion of the allocation from the recreational sector for the proposed charter boat sector has the potential to decrease the funding available for state fisheries management,” the CSC states. “The members of the Caucus are well acquainted with the successes of state-based conservation, which is almost entirely guided and funded by sportsmen and the money they spend on fishing and hunting. The sportsmen’s ethic of stewardship is at the heart of the American System of Conservation Funding and is built, in part, on the foundation of individual anglers’ recreational fishing activities.”

The letter from the CSC is yet another unequivocal message from elected officials to federal fishery managers in opposition to sector separation and catch share programs. In 2009, four Gulf state governors wrote a letter stating their opposition to catch shares and Congress has passed amendments cutting funding for such programs.

“We hope the members of the Gulf Council are listening because the message from Governors, Congressmen, and the recreational angling community is quite clear – privatizing public wildlife resources through sector separation and catch shares is the wrong direction,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee. “If the Council and NOAA Fisheries continue to ignore this message, then that should be interpreted as yet more evidence that the federal management system is broken and Congress should engage to either rein in a federal agency that has lost its way or explore a completely new paradigm for managing the nation’s marine resources.” Here is the full letter from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.