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The state wildlife management commissions of Florida, Louisiana and Texas have delivered a clear message to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to slow down the rush to divide the recreational sector and further exclude private boat recreational anglers from the red snapper fishery. In a series of letters to the Gulf Council, each state voiced concern thatAmendment 40 – Sector Separation is overly divisive and will do little to solve the fundamental management problems in the fishery.
“We are concerned that private anglers seem to be an afterthought in the Council’s sector separation proposal and would face additional severe harvest cuts under the proposed allocation split,” writes Richard Corbett, chairman, in the letter from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We urge the Council and NOAA Fisheries Service to consider the big picture in managing this fishery. Dividing what is left of the recreational fishery through sector separation is akin to doling out leftovers while there is a buffet on the table.”
“We believe it would be terribly imprudent to implement such a significant departure from traditional management methods to address what is in reality a temporary, administrative crisis,” wrote Dan Allen Hughes, chairman, in the letter from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. “We urge you to step back from the obvious draconian consequences of this measure and work instead to make regional management a reality.”
Amendment 40 – Sector Separation proposes to separate charter/for-hire business from the recreational sector and give personalized allotments of red snapper to use as their own. The concept has been cast as the only solution to a broken federal management system, but it is a perilous development for recreational angling as it represents a huge step in the further privatization of recreational fisheries. More than half of the entire red snapper fishery is already privately held by commercial fishing businesses. If approved, Amendment 40 would pave the way for roughly 75 percent of the entire fishery to be accessible only through private businesses.
In the letters, all three states point to a regional management plan that would give the states greater responsibility for red snapper management as a viable alternative to sector separation.
“We should be considering fishery management measures that keep our anglers working together to improve this nation’s fishery resources and working together to better manage all sectors of the fishery to benefit all anglers, and not just a select few,” wrote Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Pat Manuel, commissioner,in the letter from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.
“We are grateful to these officials for speaking out against this fast-moving, misguided management measure on behalf of the public. It has become very difficult for regular citizens to make their voices heard at the Gulf Council amidst the crush of special interests using the situation to lobby for exceptional privileges,” said Bill Bird, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee. “Federal management of red snapper has failed the entire recreational sector – both private recreational anglers and the for-hire industry. We greatly appreciate the states fighting to make sure that any solution includes the entire sector, rather than rewarding a few individuals and casting the vast majority adrift with no reasonable recourse.”