Changes ahead for red snapper fishing in the US

A recent move by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to transfer some red snapper quota from commercial to recreational fishermen has been met with criticism from the commercial industry.

The council recently voted to change the quota allocation for 2016-2017 to 48.5 percent commercial, 51.5 percent recreational. The move, according to commercial snapper fishery leaders, reallocates 380,000 pounds of commercial quota, which disappointed Gulf Seafood Institute Board President Harlon Pearce.

“We, of course, preferred to stop any forced reallocation,” he said.

Other institute members, such as Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, said the shift in quota won’t help consumers get access to red snapper.

“The vast majority of Americans do not own an offshore boat; they access the fishery through their favorite restaurants and grocery stores,” Harris said. “This vote erodes their right to this shared American resource and hurts the businesses that provide it to them.”

The quota shift may not be the only change for red snapper management on the horizon. Legislators in Washington are working on new rules that might shift red snapper management from the federal government to the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority. That prospect doesn’t sit well with recreational fishermen.

“If the Gulf States take control of our snapper fishery, there won’t be any real control on the amount of snapper fished by the recreational sector,” said Rick Kraft, a Galveston charter-for-hire fisherman.

The Gulf Seafood Institute’s executive director, Margaret Henderson, agreed, though she said the change in management might weaken the commercial sector.

“Moving management from the federal level to the regional or state-level may lead to a host of new, unintended problems, including politicians and their appointees failing to stand up to the recreational interests,” she said.


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