Senator Vitter Moves Fisheries Allocation Policy to the Fore
WASHINGTON, DC (10-30-13) – U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) championed recreational fishing this week by securing assurances from Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that NOAA would finally implement their own policies by pushing for a review of the outdated fishery allocations currently in place.Last week, Senator Vitter notified the Commerce Secretary that he would hold Sullivan’s confirmation until NOAA finally took action.
Senator Vitter specifically requested two things from NOAA: 1) NOAA direct the Regional Fishery Management Councils (RFMC) to implement the broad allocation provisions of NOAA’s own National Catch Share Policy; and 2) NOAA take steps to address the current allocation issues in the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper fishery.
A few days after announcing his hold, Senator Vitter received a letter from Dr. Sullivan which addressed his concerns and agreed to follow through on his request.Specifically, Dr. Sullivan reiterated NOAA’s continued support of the policy which states that “harvest allocations to fishery sectors should be revisited on a regular basis.”In addition, Roy Crabtree, NOAA Regional Manager, sent a letter to Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Chairman Doug Boyd asking that the Gulf Council “complete its review of the red snapper allocation” during its February 2014 meeting.
Senator Vitter draws line for red snapper allocation
WASHINTGON, DC (10-25-13) -- Senator David Vitter (R-La.) announced yesterday that he would “hold” the nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) until he received a commitment that NOAA Fisheries would address the ongoing failure of the Agency to implement its own allocation policies and to provide some leadership and direction to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
The focus of Senator Vitter on the key issue of fisheries allocation was lauded by the leading organizations in marine recreational fishing and boating: Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association.
“It shouldn’t have to come to this,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “After all, NOAA is an agency charged with managing our public marine resources in a manner to achieve the greatest benefits to the nation and there is no way to manage any fishery to achieve that goal when the managing agency insists on adhering to an allocation that was set using catch history from the 1980s. We really appreciate Senator Vitter stepping in to make NOAA Fisheries do its job.”
Red Snapper Reallocation – What’s at Stake?
Reef Fish Amendment 28, the red snapper reallocation amendment, was initiated in January 2013 and contains six options for reallocating Gulf red snapper. However, Amendment 28 is not on the agenda for the October Gulf Council meeting because the analysis on the six alternatives is still not complete, which in itself is a remarkable testament to how federal fisheries management functions.
The topic of red snapper reallocation is getting a lot of attention lately, primarily because of the Environmental Defense Fund’s “Share the Gulf” campaign, which is a PR push that brings together chefs, seafood restaurants and commercial fishing businesses to make the case that reallocation of red snapper threatens the nation’s food supply...really. If the tactic sounds familiar, it should. Chefs, restaurants and gillnetters in Louisiana came together in 1996 to protest Louisiana’s ban on gillnetting red drum after the fish were driven almost to extinction by the blackened redfish craze. That coalition, like the one today, predicted dire consequences…none of which came to pass.
Volumes have been written on how to allocate public resources in this country, but throughout its history NOAA Fisheries has relied on simple past catch history to set allocations between the commercial and recreational sectors. The process involves selecting a snapshot in history, usually a span of three years or so, and basing allocations on how much the commercial sector caught over that time frame versus how much the recreational sector caught. How those snapshots are selected is a highly charged political game to identify and promote the years that best serve your purpose. The snapshot used for red snapper is from the mid-1980s and produced an allocation of 51% commercial to 49% recreational that still stands today.
Share the Gulf?
Protein for America?
Early in October, news came that more than 130 chefs, restaurant owners, fishermen and seafood industry leaders had partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund to launch a new propaganda campaign called "Share the Gulf.” The goal of this benignly labeled effort is to maintain 51 percent of the red snapper harvest for commercial fishermen and 49 percent to recreational fishermen – an allocation that was set using harvest data from the mid-1980s.
Coalition members maintain that any change to allocation could be a blow to commercial fishermen that could take red snapper off restaurant menus and out of grocery stores. Keep in mind, this is an allocation literally set about 30 years ago in a very different time with a very different stock.
"We need to draw a line in the sand," said John Schmidt, a Florida-based commercial fisherman and co-chairman of the coalition, in a recent article. "Recreation groups need to stop taking away America's fish and start managing their fish better."
Just chew on that thought for a moment: Recreational angling groups are taking away America’s fish. Then consider that the commercial red snapper sector is currently comprised of less than 400 “shareholders” who personally own 51 percent of all the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.
A bit infuriating, isn’t it?
Those 400 shareholders didn’t pay a dime when they were gifted that public resource through the federal catch share program in 2007, a gift recently valued by one Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council member at more than $79 million. Those shareholders to this day don’t pay enough in administrative fees to cover the cost of monitoring their own program. Many of them don’t even fish anymore and instead lease their shares to others to fish for them.
Bipartisan Members of Congress file solution to Gulf red snapper mess
Conservationists applaud legislation to let Gulf states manage red snapper
WASHINGTON, DC (9-12-2013) – A bipartisan coalition led by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) introduced legislation today that charts a new course for management of Gulf red snapper, an important commercial and recreational fishery that has been plagued by controversy. Joining Miller and Richmond as original co-sponsors of the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act were Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.); Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.); Blake Farenthold (R-Texas); Bob Latta (R-Ohio); Pete Olson (R-Texas); Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.); Mike Rogers (R-Ala.); Steve Scalise (R-La.); Austin Scott (R-Ga.); Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.); Tim Walz (D-Minn.); Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.). The legislation comes after the governors of four Gulf states released a joint letter to the U.S. House and Senate leadership stating that federal management of Gulf red snapper is “irretrievably broken,” and calling for a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management.
In a sign of broad support for the concept of state-based management of fish and wildlife resources, the entire leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has signed on to the bill. Reps. Latta, Thompson, Walz and Wittman, all co-chairs of the CSC and most representing districts in states far from the Gulf Coast, have seen the need for a change in how federal fisheries are managed.
“Federal management of red snapper has painted itself into a corner. We have a robust red snapper population in the Gulf, but 2013 was as chaotic a season as anglers have ever seen. The season started as the shortest ever, saw a revolt by some states that resulted in even shorter seasons, endured a lawsuit, received a glowing stock assessment and the promise of a fall season, only to crash on wild estimates of overharvest that put the fall season in jeopardy. This is no way to manage a fishery, and this legislation presents a way out of this no-win situation,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “Congressman Miller is a true champion of American anglers for taking the lead on this legislation. His leadership brings a reliable, workable solution that allows the Gulf states to better manage red snapper conservation.”
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