Recreational anglers across the Gulf Coast are letting it be known that they are not happy with the direction of red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico, as a monumental vote on the future of the fishery looms next week at a federal fishery management meeting in Mobile, Alabama. In this latest round of comments, more than 1,000 anglers have sent messages to members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in just the last three days asking them to focus on ensuring fair management of Gulf red snapper for everyone and not just select individuals. Since introduction, this misguided proposal has elicited thousands of comments in opposition.
The comments from anglers are aimed at a highly controversial proposal known as Amendment 40 - Sector Separation, which is widely viewed as a misguided response to a broken federal management system. That proposal would take roughly half the recreational quota of red snapper and reserve it solely for the charter/for-hire industry for its own use. Amendment 40 is the critical first step to enacting a catch share program for charter/for-hire operators, modeled exactly like the ownership program for the commercial red snapper sector in which less than 400 individuals own 51 percent of the entire fishery. If approved, it is virtually certain that up to 75 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery will be locked up by private businesses forever.
"This is a huge moment for recreational anglers as it will set a precedent for how federal fisheries are managed from this point forward," said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA's National Government Relations Committee. "Federal fisheries management has backed itself into a corner and convinced itself that assigning private ownership rights is the only way out of the mess that it has created. That is completely unacceptable. If privatizing wildlife resources is the only answer, then it is time to completely rebuild the management system because it has hit rock bottom."
In recent weeks, the states of Florida, Texas and Louisiana have each sent letters to the Council in opposition to Amendment 40. In 2012, the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus urged the Gulf Council to abandon the concepts of sector separation and catch shares. In 2009, four Gulf state governors wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in opposition to catch share programs and privatization proposals for wildlife resources. Nonetheless, proponents of privatization have kept the idea alive and have found a willing partner in NOAA Fisheries, which has proven incapable of properly managing recreational fisheries.
"The federal system has failed the angling public and is about to set us adrift with no recourse," said Bird. "The Council must see past the chaos of the moment and forge a solid path forward for everyone. Amendment 40 will simply lock this broken system into place. If this is the best federal management can do then it is past time to let the states take a greater role."
For more information on the controversy over Amendment 40, visit www.JoinCCA.org.