Last week, NOAA Fisheries announced that the 2016 federal red snapper season for private recreational anglers – those fishing from private boats – will last just nine days, opening on June 1 at 12:01 a.m. and closing on June 10 at 12:01 a.m., local time. The season for the federally permitted for-hire component will be 46 days, while the commercial red snapper season runs year-round using its privatized catch share system.
The entire nine-day federal season this year includes a single weekend for families and friends to pursue the popular fish. It is the shortest season on record despite the fact that the total allowable catch of red snapper in the Gulf is the largest in the history of the species under management.
This is as good as federal management gets for private recreational anglers. Nine days.
Federal management has created a class of commercial Sea Lords (55 commercial operators who own more than 70 percent of the commercial harvest) and spurred development of hybrid “catch share experience” trips, in which charter operators lease fish from commercial harvesters to sell to recreational anglers. It has produced convoluted measures that are seen nowhere else in the management of wildlife in this country. Not in ducks or deer or bass. With the federal government now focused on private ownership programs for industrial harvesters and the charter/for-hire sector, the ability of recreational anglers to be a part of the process is being eliminated
There is a better way.
HR. 3094, sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), would transfer authority for the entire red snapper fishery to the Gulf states. The state fisheries directors for the five Gulf states are professional stewards of the resource, with extensive training in wildlife management in general and marine science in particular. They know what they are doing. Their state-based management plan for red snapper is based on concepts they have used so successfully on species like red drum and speckled trout in the Gulf. Neither of those fisheries were subjected to privatization schemes and the states still managed to provide an unprecedented level of access for their citizens. All have been cited as tremendous conservation success stories.
The federal government has had decades to get red snapper management right and has given recreational anglers a nine-day season. The answer to complicated fishery problems cannot be to funnel access through fewer and fewer for-profit entities and leave everyone else tied to the dock. It’s time to let the states finally provide the remedy.
Please take a moment to click the link below and encourage your Congressmen to support HR 3094. Let’s put red snapper management in the hands of people who know how to manage both for the greatest conservation of the resource and greatest access for the public.
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