The long-awaited red drum stock assessment was presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) this week, and the initial results show cause for concern.
The Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) for both the southern portion of the stock (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) and the northern portion (North Carolina and points north) should be at least 30 percent. This means the spawning stock for red drum must be at least 30 percent that of an unfished stock. The estimates revealed this week indicate an SPR of 17 percent for the southern portion and just 9.1 percent for the northern portion. Recreational anglers in several states along the Atlantic Coast have voiced concerns about the status of the red drum population, but these estimates, if correct, are alarming. They indicate stocks could be slipping below a level needed to maintain a healthy stock.
The future of recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is for sale in Texas.
While charter boats and private recreational anglers in the Gulf were only allowed to catch red snapper in federal waters on 10 days last year, two companies in Galveston, Texas have been taking recreational anglers red snapper fishing all year round.
What's more, the companies allow the fishermen to keep as many red snapper as they want each day, blowing past the two-fish-per-day federal limit.
The only thing limiting how many snapper the customers are allowed to keep is how much they are willing to pay.
The Texas companies have been getting around the federal limits and seasons by selling the "Catch Shares Fishing Experience." The Texas companies involved own "catch shares" of the commercial red snapper fishery that allow them to harvest a set number of pounds per year for commercial sale.
Instead of catching those fish with a professional crew and selling them to a fish house, the captains are taking recreational anglers fishing and letting them buy the fish afterward.
For the customers, the catch share experience represents the ultimate fishing trip, where they can keep many more snapper than the two per person per day allowed under federal law. Meanwhile, the boat captains running the trips are able to market the fish as "fresh fish caught that day," which command a much higher price at the dock than most commercially caught snapper.
CCA Florida has been engaged in the discussions and efforts to find lasting solutions to the complex problems resulting from the heavy rain levels in South Florida, the discharges from Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corps, and impacts on the marine resources and wildlife, the potential for flooding, the risk of devastation on agricultural businesses, tourism, and a huge risk of major economic loss in Florida.
Last Friday, Governor Scott declared a State of Emergency in a three County area of South Florida and he warns of even greater destruction if the Hubert Hoover dam is not repaired. We will continue to be involved in the discussions regarding solutions at every level of local, regional, state and federal government. The emergency declaration is attached for your review and it demonstrates the serious nature and the complexity of this major and potential environmental and economic disaster if not corrected.