January 29, 2015


The Honorable John Thune, Chairman
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510


The Honorable Bill Nelson, Ranking Member
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
716 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510


The Honorable Rob Bishop, Chairman
U.S. House Natural Resources Committee
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


The Honorable Raul Grijalva, Ranking Member
U.S. House Natural Resources Committee
1329 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman Thune, Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Nelson and Ranking Member Grijalva:


Recreational fishing is one of America’s greatest outdoor activities. More than 33 million Americans fish recreationally and it has special significance for people living in and near the Gulf of Mexico. One of the crown jewels of recreational fishing in the Gulf is red snapper. Americans spend tens of millions of dollars chasing red snapper in the Gulf -- on boats, gear, gas, food, beverage, guides, hotels and restaurants. That is, they used to.

In 2014, NOAA and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council cut Americans’ fishing season for red snapper to just 9 days in federal waters. There is unanimous agreement that red snapper populations are thriving, so the regulators could be addressing the fundamental shortcomings that are unnecessarily causing such short seasons. The Gulf Council instead elected to use this manufactured crisis to segregate the recreational sector and further delineate the entire fishery into select “haves” and millions of “have-nots.” The Gulf Council and NOAA have made it clear that they intend to pursue a management direction that seeks to restrict access to public marine resources in order to facilitate its own inadequate methods of management. There is no clearer indication that the federal management system is broken. And it is getting worse.

By allocating more than three-quarters of this entire public resource to a few commercial and charter boat license-holders, NOAA and the Gulf Council have deviated wildly from the management principles that this country has traditionally used to govern its wildlife resources. Comparatively, the current management approach for Gulf red snapper which has allocated 75 percent of the resource for private harvest is the equivalent of reserving 75 percent of the duck season harvest for the exclusive use of just 906 commercial hunters and guides nationwide, or 75 percent of the deer season harvest to just 7,052 licensed hunters. While such a management approach for these other wildlife species may seem inconceivable, this is proportionally what is being implemented for Gulf red snapper. It is easy to understand why recreational anglers along the Gulf Coast feel they have been betrayed and manipulated by the federal system entrusted to manage these public marine resources.

We support legislation to fix this travesty. We support Senator David Vitter’s Red Snapper Management Improvement Act, S.105. Last Congress, we supported several other bills fixing red snapper for Americans, including Congressman Jeff Miller’s Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act, H.R. 3099. These bills give the states the responsibility to manage this fishery in a manner that ensures not only a robust, healthy resource, but one that is not systematically put out of the reach of ordinary citizens. With their proven track record managing fishing and recovering stocks such as red drum and speckled trout, and with superior recreational data collection systems, the states have earned the trust and respect of Gulf Coast anglers and conservationists. We hope you will schedule hearings on red snapper early this Congress to set this fishery back on equal footing.

To that end, we support including red snapper legislation in the Sportsmen’s Act that is currently under consideration. The Sportsmen’s Act is designed to improve Americans’ opportunities to hunt and fish, and as such there is no more fitting vehicle to carry red snapper legislation.

Thank you for working for sports men and women across America who want to be able to enjoy America’s natural resource treasures.


Sincerely,

 

Mike Nussman, President and CEO
American Sportfishing Association

 

Jeff Angers, President
Center for Coastal Conservation

 

Patrick Murray, President
Coastal Conservation Association

 

Steve Stock, President
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

 

Rob Kramer, President
International Game Fish Association

 

Thom Dammrich, President
National Marine Manufacturers Association

 

Ellen Peel, President
The Billfish Foundation
 

cc: Commerce Committee/Natural Resource Committee Members