MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY HOSTS 2018 RESTORATION SUMMIT, NOVEMBER 13, 2018: MDEQ holds an annual Restoration Summit as part of the process of allocating and reviewing funding flowing from the BP settlement. This year the date is Wednesday, November 13, 2018, at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. The agenda is provided in this link: https://www.mdeq.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018.pdf . The 2:00 – 5:00 sessions on Blue Economy and Marine and Living Resources are particularly relevant and any member interested in how these BP funds are projected should plan to attend.
CCA AWAITS OUTCOME OF TWO INITIATIVES ON RED SNAPPER MANAGEMENT: Recreational anglers who fish offshore – and have tolerated the limitations on Red Snapper fishing based on Gulf Council management – have a brighter future IF – and that is a BIG IF – the Gulf Council heeds the results of ongoing research. Allocation of fishery stocks to sectors (commercial/recreational) are typically based on historical catch data. In the case of Red Snapper, history started in the 1980s. Recalibration (since MRFSS is now history and MRIP is in place) may change thinking. The second part of the initiatives is The Great Red Snapper Count. This assessment is outside of the normal NMFS stock assessment process and, based on recreational angler experience with Red Snapper (i.e. How do you avoid them when fishing for in-season species?), we anxiously await the outcome. For a full presentation of these issues, go to: https://www.joincca.org/unraveling-noaas-flat-earth-theory-two-initiatives-currently-underway-could-explain-and-solve-the-entire-gulf-red-snapper-mess/?fbclid=IwAR0ZETAkHYe6BAyFcrFJxfUO-aDDd6qAj2zkJOeBc1K1C2vfqEzs141s_JQ .
RECOMMENDED READING: Lee van der Voo. The Fish Market: Inside the Big Money Battle for the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016. CCA has been battling a privatization scheme we know as Catch Shares, a governmental policy in the commercial sector that has corralled Gulf Red Snapper since 2007 and added Grouper and Tilefish in 2010. What results is the assignment of Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) that were originally based on catch history assigned to quite a number of commercial fishers that resulted in a predictable outcome – the consolidation of the rights to fish commercially in fewer hands than were involved at the time the program started. How did this program in the Gulf come about – through the influence of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), underwritten by large funders including the Walton Foundation. Van der Voo covers catch share programs that span the world and have had predictable (although never announced) results of consolidation – some with unintended consequences for safety.
Van der Voo is an investigative journalist, unattached to a side in this issue, and devoted years to studying commercial fisheries around the world. The Fish Market is a scary read when thought of in terms of where Gulf fisheries are headed and how this mega-program can challenge the recreational community. CCA has been fighting this battle for recreational anglers and are now joined by a number of partners who see and do not like what is happening to our fisheries. Van der Voo has an interesting way of describing how management decisions at federal fishery management council (read: Gulf Council) are made: presenting individual ideas to council members behind “…a U-shaped table ringed with microphones.” In our case, that is the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, with staff (assisted by other members of the NOAA/National Marine Fishery Service structure) devoted to churching numbers, making projections and providing “alternatives” to council members on how to manage a fishery. Most importantly, they decide on the allocations of a species to commercial and recreational sectors (in a mixed-use fishery) and have put in place the catch share programs we fear are permanent. A public resource like fisheries were never intended to be a property right as they have become under catch share programs.
In her introduction, van der Voo has a one sentence paragraph that sums up what this investigative book explores: “But Americans don’t own the fish in their oceans anymore, not really.” If this scares you, read The Fish Market exploring commercial fishing and the pitfalls of privatization and consider how what is happening threatens the recreational pursuit we cherish.
THE MODERN FISH ACT: An important step in the process of getting the management councils to view recreational fishing as distinct from commercial is the Modern Fish Act (MFA). With the current Congress coming to an end after the Lame Duck Session post-election, MFA is in the final stages of Congressional action (requires full Senate approval) and will then go to the President with every indication he will sign. The expected opponents (EDF, chefs, and the shareholders) are pressuring the Senate to delay action – starting the whole process over. CCA and our partners have worked too hard for this to happen. Watch for emails requesting you to support MFA to our Senators, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, and encourage them not only to vote for MFA but also get their Senate colleagues to vote for MFA.
REMINDER: The next Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources meeting is Tuesday, November 27, 2018, at the Bolton Building in Biloxi. Please attend if you can.