NEW ORLEANS (10-28-15) – Coastal Conservation Association made its case today against Amendment 40 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico during oral arguments in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. CCA has been a vocal opponent of NOAA Fisheries’ action to create a new charter/for-hire sector in the red snapper fishery and reserve a significant percentage of the recreational quota solely for its use.
“After oral arguments today, we are hopeful that the Court will set aside the agency’s highly controversial management plan for Gulf of Mexico red snapper,” said Mitch Brownlee, chairman of CCA National. “In forcing this unpopular plan through the management system, NOAA Fisheries ignored overwhelming public opposition to appease certain for-profit stakeholders at the expense of the angling public. This is clearly not the way to manage public marine resources.”
Amendment 40 was narrowly approved by the Gulf Council in October 2014 and resulted in a private-boat recreational angling season of just 10 days in 2015, compared to 44 days for the new charter/for-hire sector. The commercial sector, which already operates under a privatized system known as a catch share program, is allowed to fish year-round. CCA filed suit in United States District Court shortly after Amendment 40 was signed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in April 2015.
“There is a high degree of dissatisfaction overall with NOAA Fisheries’ management of this fishery,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “In pursuing this particular amendment, the agency overstepped its authority and expended tremendous time and resources pursuing a highly controversial plan at the behest of a relatively few stakeholders. We believe our legal arguments will carry the day and erase this unfortunate chapter in red snapper management.”
Frustration over federal management has spurred growing support for legislation to transfer responsibility for the red snapper fishery to the Gulf States. A hearing was held last week in the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans on HR 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) and 28 bi-partisan co-sponsors. The fish and wildlife management agencies of all five Gulf states have submitted letters in support of HR 3094.
There is no timetable yet for the judge to render a ruling in the case.