Sportsmen’s Caucus urges ‘fair and euitable balance’ in red snapper fishery
WASHINGTON, DC (10-20-14) – The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) has joined a groundswell of opposition to a controversial mangemement proposal for Gulf red snapper scheduled for a final vote of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council this week in Mobile, Alabama. In a letter to the Gulf Council, the CSC, the largest bipartisan caucus in Congress with nearly 300 members in 49 states, calls for Amendment 40 – Sector Separation to be tabled.
“While we fully support a better management approach to alleviate the hardships of an extremely short recreational season on the charter/for-hire fishery, providing more days of fishing for a select few while completely ignoring the impacts to the majority of participants is irresponsible,” CSC Co-Chairs Representatives Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) explained in the letter. “Other options that address the needs of the recreational fishery as a whole should be on the table.”
The object of the letter from CSC, Amendment 40 – Sector Separation, is an extreme measure that proposes to take roughly half the recreational quota of red snapper and reserve it solely for the charter/for-hire industry for its own use. It is widely regarded as the critical first step to enacting a catch share program for charter/for-hire operators, modeled on the ownership program for the commercial red snapper sector in which less than 400 individuals own 51 percent of the entire fishery. If approved, up to 75 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery will be locked up by private businesses forever at a time when many scientists agree that the population of Gulf red snapper has never been healthier.
“Indications are that the red snapper stock is recovering well ahead of schedule, which suggests that the current problems with red snapper are not biological, but rather man-made,” Latta and Thompson state. “It appears that some failure of our federal fisheries policy is producing a system in which access to a healthy fishery resource is being funneled through fewer and fewer entities. Unnecessarily restricting public access to a sustainable resource is an undesirable and untenable result for any wildlife resource management system, and one that should be avoided at all costs.”