The recent passage of regulations by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) concerning use of the “Boca Jig” has left CCA Florida in the midst of a heated debate (again). We have friends and members on both sides of the issue. Our position, developed by our government relations committee (GRC), is set forth on CCA’s website and reprinted below for ease of reference. In short there were three proposed regulations. We supported two:
The third issue focused on the banning of the “Boca Jig” from use in Boca Grand Pass. Some believe the “Boca Jig” to be a snagging device; while others claim it is not a snagging device. Yet everyone who weighed in on the issue from both sides of the debate to CCA’s GRC stated that they are against snagging Tarpon.
JACKSONVILLE, FL – (10-17-13) – It is not often that the downtown area of a U.S. city is the backdrop for a new reef, but that is exactly where the next marine habitat project funded by Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida) and the CCA national marine habitat program will splash down. In just a few months, two new fishing reefs will be created less than half a mile from the I-95 Bridge over the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.
The total cost of the project is $60,000 and the Jacksonville Chapter of CCA Florida has committed to raising 50 percent of the necessary funding. The Building Conservation Trust, CCA’s national habitat program which has garnered support from country music star Kenny Chesney and Costa Sunglasses among others, has donated the remaining $30,000 to the Jacksonville reefing project.
By Ted Venker
Coastal Conservation Association
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," John Schmidt, a Florida-based commercial fisherman and co-chairman of the coalition, said 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?
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.”
Federal management of red snapper has been broken for years, and reached rock bottom in 2013 when frustration over status quo management compelled several Gulf states to seek greater control of the fishery in their own waters. In retaliation, the National Marine Fisheries Service used an emergency rule process to reduce the recreational season to nine days off Louisiana and 12 days off Texas. Both states sued and a federal court overturned the action.
“The reality is that federal management of the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishery is fundamentally flawed, and it is negatively impacting anglers and the coastal economies that depend on access to that fishery,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “State-based fishery management has proven to be far more effective, and has engineered some of the greatest marine conservation victories in the country. We are grateful that the Gulf Governors, Reps. Miller, Richmond and the CSC co-chairs are working to give states back the authority to manage this situation.”
The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act would establish a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management through which the states would fully comply with a management plan approved and adopted by the Gulf States Marines Fisheries Commission. The partnership would be similar to how the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages striped bass and how the Gulf states manage red drum.
“There are many examples where a shift to state-based management of a given fishery resource has been called for, producing better results,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “State fish and wildlife management professionals have a strong track record of managing their fishery resources in order to achieve the right balance between sustainability and quality fishing opportunities. The ongoing red snapper debacle in the Gulf is begging for the opportunity to put proven state-based management approaches to work.”
Comments offered today by other coalition leaders:
Coastal Conservation Association - Pat Murray, President
“This is a fishery that has been defined by crisis for decades, and there is nothing that leads one to believe it is likely to change given the current tools and philosophy of federal management,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “This legislation provides an opportunity to break the cycle of crisis management with a viable alternative, and we applaud Rep. Jeff Miller and Rep. Cedric Richmond for their vision crafting a workable solution.”
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation - Steve Stock, President
“The current management regime for Gulf red snapper is unpredictable and ineffective,” said Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation President Steve Stock. “Rep. Miller’s legislation will allow the Gulf states to build fair, predictable red snapper management that will ensure Gulf anglers have reasonable access to this important resource.”
International Game Fish Association - Rob Kramer, President
“Anglers were the first conservationists,” said Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association. “State-based management – closest to the constituency managed – has a proven track record for conservation.”
National Marine Manufacturers Association - Thom Dammrich, President
“Uncertainty in fisheries management translates to uncertainty for fishing-dependent business,” said National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich. “Rep. Jeff Miller’s leadership in addressing the red snapper issue will mean that marine manufacturers, marine dealers, marina operators, and the many businesses that rely on stable saltwater fisheries will have greater opportunities for success.”
Comment period ends August 29, 2013
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would increase the commercial and recreational quotas for Gulf of Mexico red snapper and potentially re-open the recreational season for 2013. The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 14, 2013.
The rule would increase the total allowable catch for harvest of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico from 8.46 million pounds (mp) to 11.0 mp. The commercial quota would be 5.61 mp and the recreational quota would be 5.39 mp. The quotas can be increased because a recent stock assessment for red snapper showed the stock can support higher catches.
The red snapper commercial sector is managed with an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. The increase of 1.295 mp to the commercial quota would be distributed to IFQ shareholders on or shortly after the effective date of the final rule.
The 1.245 mp increase to the recreational quota could allow a supplemental red snapper recreational fishing season, if unused quota is available. The supplemental season would open October 1, 2013, and preliminary projections show fishing could be supported for 21 days, but only if landings did not exceed the previous quota during the June season. The final projections will be received in mid-August. If quota is available, the official dates of the supplemental season will be announced in the final rule for this action.
For more information please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions on the NOAA Fisheries Web site.
Request for Comments
The comment period on this proposed rule will open on August 14, 2013. NOAA Fisheries must receive comments no later than August 29, 2013. We will address all comments specifically directed to the framework action or the proposed rule in the final rule. You may obtain electronic copies of the proposed rule and the framework action from the NOAA Fisheries Web site or the e-Rule Making Portal www.regulations.gov.
How to Submit Comments
You may submit comments on this document, identified by "NOAA-NMFS-2013-0115", by one of the following methods:
All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible.
About Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional Fishery Management Councils established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council prepares fishery management plans, which are designed to manage fishery resources within the 200-mile limit of the Gulf of Mexico.
August --, 2013
Ms. Susan Gerhart,
Southeast Regional Office, NMFS
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
Dear Ms. Gerhart:
I am taking this opportunity to offer the support of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) for the proposed rule that would re-open the recreational red snapper season beginning in October. We understand that the season length may extend for 21 days and believe that allowing this opportunity for accessing this rapidly expanding resource to Gulf of Mexico anglers should be a first step towards affirming the economic and social potential of recreational fishing in the federal waters of the Gulf.
Understanding that the rule would also increase the 2013 TAC from 8.46 to 11 million pounds we concur with the increase, but take the position that the increases allowed in commercial harvest manifested by this change are effective for this single year and do not represent an action that affects the Gulf Council's current deliberation over changes in red snapper allocation. CCA firmly believes that a major re-allocation of harvest privileges between the commercial and recreational sectors will be the only action that will allow this red snapper resource to generate its full potential economic benefits to this nation.
We urge the NMFS to firmly establish the duration of the October season as rapidly as possible so as to allow the angling public to prepare for the season in advance.
Thank you for this opportunity to express our views on this important issue.
Chester Brewer, Chairman
CCA National Government Relations Committee
Our Association sometimes finds itself in the middle of an issue on which we have many members on both sides. That is case with one of the new regulations the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission proposed at its June, 2013 meeting relating to tarpon fishing, which applies particularly during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. We want our members to be informed and understand how and why CCA Florida formulates its positions on these issues.
Differing methods of fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass have engendered impassioned feelings and emotions for decades now. Over 10 years ago, the FWCC commissioned a study to see if there was a difference in release mortality between tarpon caught in the old, traditional method – using live bait – and those caught using jigs. That study, which was peer reviewed, concluded that there is no significant difference in release mortality between the 2 methods. On the basis of that study – which remains the only such study of which we are aware – CCA Florida adopted the position that no additional regulations governing methods of fishing for tarpon were warranted.
That study has now been discredited to some degree – completely so in the view of some. If one assumes that the study was flawed, that does not mean that the opposite conclusion is now true – it means that we are back to having no study that establishes anything. Nonetheless, the FWCC has decided to propose some new rules for tarpon fishing. CCA Florida supported the new rule making tarpon a catch and release fishery, and we are in complete support of the proposed rule prohibiting the snagging of tarpon (although our position is that only the intentional snagging of tarpon should be prohibited as every angler unintentionally foul hooks/snags a fish at some point).
The last proposed rule would limit the use of bottom weighted jigs while fishing for tarpon, which is a popular method used during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. CCA Florida’s Government Relations Committee – which is made up of 45 members from across our entire State – voted unanimously not to support this new rule – the entire rationale in doing so is that there simply is no scientific evidence demonstrating a need for the new rule. Insisting that the management of our fisheries be pursued using credible science has served us well, and the charged emotions involved in the Boca Grande tarpon fishery are no basis for us to change that approach.
Regarding Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 14, Action 2 - Modify the fishing year for the black sea bass recreational sector –
It goes without saying that in a year-round fishery the start date has little impact. However we will not likely see a year round fishery for black sea bass again and a uniform start date will inevitably disadvantage one area compared to another. We believe the Council should set the season length and perhaps a framework of time when the season can be open and allow the states to set their season to best suit their fisheries.
Regarding Action 3 of Amendment 14 - Modify the recreational accountability measure for black sea bass –
This is a common action in several Amendments, and our position on all of them is that the Council should adopt uniform Accountability Measures for recreational fisheries that have these three essential elements:
1. The season should be set based on when the ACT is projected to be met;
2. Should overages in the ACL occur, payback provisions should only be implemented if the stock is overfished; the entire ACL is exceeded; and if the recreational harvest is responsible for the ACL overage.
3. If the overage occurs in three consecutive years, paybacks in the following year should be implemented until the overages cease.
Regarding Action 4 and Action 5 of Amendment 14 -
We believe that when feasible, the commercial and recreational season should start at the same time.
Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 1 - Revise acceptable biological catches (ABCs), annual catch limits (ACLs), and annual catch targets (ACTs) for dolphin and wahoo -
We believe the use of MRIP in setting catch limits is the appropriate action and support Alternative 2.
Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 2 - Revise the accountability measures (AMs) for dolphin and wahoo –
We are concerned that the Accountability Measure for the commercial fishery is open-ended no matter which alternative is selected. As long as the fishery is not overfished and the total ACL is not exceeded, overages could occur annually which would be a de facto allocation shift. Similar to the language we suggest for recreational AMs, serial overages must be eliminated and paybacks initiated after 3 years.
Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 3 - Revise the framework procedure in the Dolphin Wahoo Fishery Management Plan –
We believe the ability to use a framework action to adjust catch limits is appropriate and support the adoption of the preferred alternatives 2 and 3.
In Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5 Action 4 - Establish a commercial trip limit for dolphin in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South Atlantic Council’s area of jurisdiction -
CCA supported a 3,000-pound commercial trip limit in 2003 as a means to ensure a directed dolphin longline fishery did not develop. There were concerns of localized depletion by both private rec and for-hire captains. The Council adopted the trip limit but it was not allowed by NOAA Fisheries. Our concerns still remain. We believe a trip limit that would have little impact on the historic dolphin fishery but preventing a longline fishery from developing is still appropriate. We support the adoption of a 3,000-pound commercial trip limit for dolphin.
In Amendment 20 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics FMP - Establish Regional Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) for Atlantic Migratory Group King Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel –
In general, we believe allowing the states to set their own seasons, within a seasonal framework set by the Council, and where feasible have their own quota, is appropriate.
In Coastal Migratory Pelagics Framework, Action 1 - Modify restrictions on transfer-at-sea and gillnet allowances for Atlantic migratory group Spanish mackerel –
This provision is supposed to take care of the uncommon incidence where a Spanish mackerel gill net boat catches more than the daily trip limit and would allow that Captain to cut the net and transfer it to another federally permitted vessel, thus reducing dead discards.
This seems to be a clear “slippery slope” action that would be difficult at best to enforce. The Advisory Panel did not like it and we do not believe this action is appropriate. We believe it makes much more sense for the Council re-examine the use of gill nets as allowable gear in the Spanish mackerel fishery if this problem persists.
Amendments to the Fishery Management Plans for Snapper Grouper, Dolphin Wahoo, Coral, and Coastal Migratory Pelagics
All public hearings are scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 7
Thursday, August 8
The concept of regional management of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico has been born out of the frustration felt by many anglers towards federal management. By almost any account, red snapper are more abundant now than perhaps at any point in history. Management has finally worked and no one wants to go back to the days when red snapper were small and hard to find. On the other hand, no one should be content with a management regime that is unable to find a way to reap the benefits of success.
CCA supports driving management of marine resources to the lowest level of government possible, ideally to the state level. That position is staked in the belief that the states simply have a better grasp of how to manage these resources in ways that ensure their health and stability. At the same time, state agencies have proven their expertise in providing the greatest access to those resources and maximizing the benefits of those resources for their citizens. Almost every one of this country’s great marine conservation success stories has been engineered by the states.
Contrast that against our experiences with NOAA Fisheries. After decades of management, participants in the red snapper fishery were rewarded with a 27-day season and a two-fish bag limit. Proposals were even made that to reduce the bag limit to one fish in an effort to increase the number of days in the recreational season and prevent a widespread revolt against federal management. While season length is indeed crucial to the recreational sector, days alone do not make a quality fishery. We believe the individual states are best equipped to determine the management approach best suited to their residents. The current situation is unacceptable, and that is with a fishery that by all accounts is recovering wildly. Rather than hoping that NOAA Fisheries will someday figure out how to copy the success of the states, we believe that this proposal to allow the states to take greater control of management could provide a solution.
The transfer of management responsibility would be no easy task, and countless details remain to be fully explored. Issues over enforcement, monitoring, state boundaries and compliance will have to be fully resolved. However, CCA believes that the best results will be achieved through negotiations between the states themselves, with as little federal influence as possible. Additionally, in the development of this proposal it should be specified that states have the ability to manage the entire fishery – both recreational and commercial – including decisions on eliminating the IFQ program - as they see fit. Another option that the Gulf Council could consider is simply removing red snapper from the Reef Fish Management plan as they have recently removed stone crabs; anchor and blackline tilefish; red and rock hind; misty grouper; and schoolmaster, dog and mahogany snapper. Such action would also allow each Gulf state to optimize the use of red snapper to the highest benefit of their residents and economies.
Recreational anglers have more faith in the ability of the states to successfully manage our marine resources than in NOAA Fisheries. If enacted correctly, CCA views state-based management as a potential path to achieving our overriding goal of healthy marine resources and increased access to them for the greatest benefit of the public.
The remaining public hearing schedule for Reef Fish Amendment 39 is as follows:
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Holiday Inn Select
2001 N. Cove Boulevard
Panama City, FL
Thursday, August 8, 2013*
Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel
64 South Water Street
Monday, August 12, 2013*
Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Parkway
950 Lake Carillon Drive
St. Petersburg, FL
All meetings begin at 6:00 pm and will conclude at the end of public comment,but no later than 9:00 pm.
NOTE: * Denotes the meeting will cover Recreational Regional Management of Red Snapper as well as Amendments 19 & 20 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan.
Can't attend any of the meetings? Comments on Reef Fish Amendment 39 will also be accepted online at https://bit.ly/177mEcD.
Copies of the public hearing documents can be obtained by calling 813-348-1630, or by visiting www.gulfcouncil.org.