(WASHINGTON – June 27, 2013) Today the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee is meeting to discuss the management of the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper fishery. This hearing takes place at a critical time for the fishery. The mismanagement of the recreational share of the fishery has caused serious chaos in the region including a lawsuit, state non-compliance, gridlock in the regional fishery management council and proposed intervention by Congress.
Below is a statement from the EDF Oceans Program’s Gulf of Mexico Director, Pam Baker:
“Today, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee will hear from fishery managers and fishermen from across the Gulf of Mexico. The good news is: the red snapper population is recovering from the days when it was in serious decline. Scientific catch limits and a new commercial management plan have helped end “overfishing” and put the fishery on a rebuilding path – with more fish for all. The commercial fishery and U.S. consumers are enjoying steady supplies of fresh snapper and a stable business environment. But, the mismanagement of the recreational share is robbing anglers from reaping greater fishing opportunities. This year’s 28 day recreational red snapper season is an obvious sign of management failure.
There are good alternatives that could be matched to simultaneously benefit fishermen, fishing businesses and seafood markets. The commercial management plan operating in offshore federal waters (called individual fishing quotas) is working well – it isn’t perfect, but it is one of the best in the country. This plan is already in place and helps to serve the growing U.S. demand for local, sustainable seafood. On the recreational side, charter boats (who provide fishing opportunities to anglers who do not have their own boats) may benefit from a fleet-specific individual fishing quota design because it would allow longer seasons and more flexibility for their customers. For anglers with their own vessels, a regional management concept may work. State management agencies have experience managing anglers and may do better with more authority under “regional management”. Under this system, states can have a designated sub-quota and the ability to try tools that perform better than short seasons and other existing measures.
Managing popular fish to meet the growing demand from both American consumers and recreationists is a serious challenge. Progress is currently the victim of regulatory and political chaos. If we can focus on real alternatives and less on politics, we can ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery as well as preserve the business and sport of fishing for future generations.”
To read EDF’s full written testimony to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, click here.
More background on EDF’s views on the red snapper fishery: