July 16, 2014
Dr. Steve Branstetter
Southeast Regional Office
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
Dear Dr. Branstetter,
The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposed Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) for the Alabama For-Hire red snapper fishery, which has been extensively debated by the Gulf Council. We feel compelled to note that the Council’s Reef Fish Committee originally voted 5-4 to recommend that NOAA Fisheries deny this permit. The vote of the full Council to overturn the Committee’s recommendation shows the level of disagreement and controversy related to managing this troubled fishery by exempted fishing permit.
The nine-day recreational season for red snapper in 2014 was a convoluted product of a flawed federal law, outdated allocations and inappropriate management tools for the recreational sector. It was, however, ideal for creating the conditions for some charter/for-hire operators to be receptive to the lure of individual fishing quota programs for that industry. We have noted the careful avoidance of promoting this and other similar schemes as catch share programs, but that is certainly what they are, and we question whether the larger for-hire industry has been made fully aware of the inevitable economic outcome. Since catch share programs are expressly designed to reduce capacity, we are opposed to such programs in the recreational sector since they reduce access to red snapper. In addition, it is very possible that for-hire operators who feel compelled by current circumstances to favor this course of action today could find themselves out of the fishery entirely within just a few years. This aspect of IFQ programs should be emphasized by Council staff at least as energetically as the possible benefits for the select few winners.
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.
If Amendment 40 passes, it is likely that up to 75 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery will be privately held, for private profit.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has scheduled a series of public hearings over the next few weeks on a dangerous privatization scheme for Gulf red snapper (see full schedule below). Reef Fish Amendment 40 - Sector Separation proposes to separate charter/for-hire businesses from the recreational sector and give personalized allotments of red snapper to use as their own.
The concept has been cast as a reasonable response to a broken federal management system, but it is a perilous development for recreational angling as it represents a huge step in the privatization of our fisheries.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 7, 2014
For More Information:
Ted Forsgren 407-702-3567
COURT UPHOLDS FLORIDA’S NET BAN
Today, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal issued an opinion upholding the net ban amendment…again. CCA Florida once again led the charge to support the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulations implementing the Constitutional Amendment that was passed by 72% of the voters in 1994.
Net Ban Upheld!
The First District Court of Appeal released their opinion on the latest challenge to the Net Ban Amendment today and ruled in favor of FWC, CCA and all recreational anglers!
We would like to thank FWC for their efforts in ensuring that gill nets stay out of Florida's waters.
Click here for the full First District Court of Appeals opinion.
Washington, D.C. – June 26, 2014 – After significant objection from the recreational fishing and boating community, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has taken steps to correct a key fisheries economics report that misleadingly indicated that the domestic commercial fishing industry in the United States was significantly larger than the recreational fishing industry. When imported seafood, which is not regulated or managed by NMFS, is removed from the equation, the corrected data show that the recreational fishing industry is actually $7.9 billion dollars larger than the commercial fishing industry. Furthermore, the corrected data show that the domestic commercial fishing industry actually decreased by $2.3 billion in 2012.
“When seafood imports, industrial species, shellfish and fish that aren’t caught by recreational anglers are removed, recreational fishing generates $33.3 billion dollars more than their commercial counterparts while taking far fewer pounds of fish,” said Ted Venker, Conservation director for the Coastal Conservation Association. “That is the apple-to-apples number that needs to be considered when we are talking about management decisions that impact domestic fisheries, and it is important that NOAA corrected the data.”
For More Information Contact
Ted Forsgren 407-702-3567
On May 15 the First District Court of Appeals heard arguments on a local judge’s ruling that overturns Florida’s 20 year old Constitutional Amendment limiting marine net fishing. The three judge panel questioned lawyers representing the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Wakulla Fisherman’s Association. The Court’s ruling will likely come between July and August 2014.
Red Grouper: Another example of how NOT to manage a recreational fishery
The current recreational fishery data collection system estimates the harvest based on a survey of anglers, much the same as has been done successfully for decades in freshwater fisheries and wildlife. There is a lag time between the harvest and the resulting estimate of the total harvest of the species. That is the reality of recreational fisheries management - it simply is not a system set up to monitor harvest in real-time.
It is well known that recreational fisheries respond to the abundance of fish. That is, as abundance increases, so generally will the recreational catch. The opposite is also true; as abundance decreases so does the recreational catch. Unlike commercial fisheries, there is no economic incentive that drives fishing effort. Thus, knowing the current abundance of a population is critical, or at least having some estimate of the number of fish recruiting into the fishery each year. Unfortunately, in the Gulf of Mexico we currently have neither for red grouper.