Guest commentary: Gulf fishery manangement a huge mess
The Baton Rouge Advocate
By David Cresson, Aug. 28, 2014
The Gulf red snapper fishery is a mess. Bob Shipp, the respected marine scientist with the University of South Alabama, recently retired from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council after serving two nine-year terms. After 18 years of grappling with counterintuitive and misguided federal policies, Shipp said in an article last week that Gulf red snapper is the worst-managed fishery in the United States and should be handed over to the states to manage from a fresh start.
That is a significant statement, and it explains a great deal of the concern and frustration of the recreational angling community over continued efforts by a select few businesses in the Gulf to profit by this chaos. The federal system that is in place to manage recreational angling is completely inadequate. It produced a nine-day recreational red snapper season in 2014, set against perhaps the healthiest red snapper stock the Gulf has ever seen. At the same time, more than half the fishery is literally owned by less than 400 select commercial businesses.
Amendment 40, a management measure known as sector separation that is under consideration by the council, is seeking to assign additional ownership privileges out of the recreational quota to select charter/for-hire operators. Ultimately, more than 75 percent of the entire red snapper fishery is likely to end up privately owned in some form or fashion.
Vitter Urges Gulf Council to Table Divisive Red Snapper Proposal
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, made the following statement regarding the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council public hearing this week, during which they will consider a proposal to divide the recreational red snapper sector, further partitioning the annual fishery allocations.
“The option they want to consider is a painfully obvious attempt to disenfranchise the recreational sector in favor of the desires of a New York based environmental activist group to end public access to the red snapper fishery,” said Vitter. “The public has already made it clear that they do not support it and it’s not a good idea, and so I urge the Gulf Council to immediately end any consideration of this amendment to support what the Gulf fishermen want.”
Gulf fishing authority says red-snapper fix is easy
By Todd Masson, nola.com
Dr. Bob Shipp is THE authority on Gulf of Mexico red snapper. He recently retired after serving the last 20 years as chairman of the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama, and he also served two nine-year stints on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the board responsible for making recommendations to NOAA Fisheries about how federal Gulf fisheries are to be managed. During his time on the council, Shipp served as chairman on three separate occasions.
A New Orleans native -- he graduated from Jesuit High School in 1960 -- Shipp is the author of Dr. Bob Shipp's Guide to Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico, the authoritative resource for anglers from the Rio Grande to Key West.
In an interview with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, Shipp laid out the problems with the way red snapper are managed and what the solutions are.
Chaos reigns at Gulf Council - Gulf Council’s own Red Snapper Advisory Panel rejects sector separation
TAMPA, FL (7-30-14) – Even as the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council fast-tracks a highly controversial plan to break the recreational red snapper fishery into private boat anglers and charter/for-hire operators, the Council’s own Red Snapper Advisory Panel voted today to reject the concept entirely.
The Advisory Panel’s recommendations are non-binding and it remains uncertain what impact, if any, the panel’s decision will ultimately have on the Gulf Council’s deliberations. The vote by a panel comprised of three charter/for-hire representatives, four private recreational anglers, two commercial fishermen, one representative of the Environmental Defense Fund and one academic would seem to signal that the concept of sector separation needs much greater scrutiny, even as public hearings are set to kick off next week on Amendment 40 – Sector Separation.
“It seems clear that there are forces at work here trying to ram this separation scheme through the process as fast as possible to take advantage of all the confusion and frustration over federal management of red snapper,” said Bill Bird, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee. “The Council spent the last 18 months on an amendment to reallocate the red snapper fishery between the commercial and recreational sectors, and then decided rather suddenly to shelve it. Then they fast-tracked this amendment to create a whole new sector in just a few weeks, but their own advisory panel doesn’t support it. This is just pure chaos.”
Saltwater Fishing License Increase Offers Host of Benefits to Louisiana Recreational Anglers
July 16, 2014 - For the first time in 14 years, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will increase its license fees for recreational, saltwater fishing from $15.00 to $22.50 on August 1. The increase places Louisiana firmly in the middle of saltwater license fees among Gulf States. The Department expects to generate an additional $2.25 million annually, which will be used to fund the agency’s LA Creel program.
LDWF recognized the shortcomings of the federally established Marine Recreational Information Program to provide the best available data to fisheries managers and began collecting their own recreational statistics through a new data collection program called LA Creel.
Since federal officials do not recognize LA Creel as MRIP compatible, over half a million dollars typically used to fund recreational surveying in Louisiana was pulled, leaving the Department responsible for the financial burden of data collection. The Department recognized that it was unable to adequately fund a high quality, precise recreational survey for the long term and sought angler support to fund the survey through a license fee increase.
A Brave New World
Posted on July 14, 2014 - by CCA National
Imagine a Gulf coast where recreational anglers suddenly saw a catch share initiative created for a few coastal fishing guides. Certain (not all) guides would be able to have a determined portion of a fishery and could sell opportunities to go fish for red drum…even if the fishery had been closed to the general private recreational angler. It is hard to think that recreational anglers who fought so hard to restore redfish stocks from the perils of gillnets, purse seines and the blackened redfish craze would now have a significant portion of the fishery given away to a handful of guides. Sound far-fetched?
The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery is already in this brave new world of fisheries management. It is a fishery that could be almost completely privatized as soon as the end of this year and be held from that point forward by commercial fishing and private charter businesses using this public resource for profit. It is very likely, as soon as next season, private boat owners will not be allowed to venture into federal waters to catch a red snapper and bring it home.
You will be allowed to hire a for-hire operator that owns red snapper quota, pay them to take you fishing and buy one of their fish. You will be allowed to buy a filet in the grocery store for $20-plus a pound. But you won’t be allowed to enjoy a strongly rebuilt stock.