Gulf red snapper bill criticized by commercial fishermen
A commercial fishermen’s group has some “strong concerns” about a new bill that would weaken enforcement of quotas for the recreational red snapper fishery.
The RED SNAPPER Act of 2017 (H.R. 3588), which was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) this week, moves the power to set recreational snapper season lengths and quotas from the federal government to the Gulf states.
“It seems like Congress is trying to do something to help recreational fishermen without hurting commercial fishermen, but we do have some strong concerns with this bill,” said Shareholders’ Alliance, the largest organization of commercial snapper and grouper fishermen in the Gulf.
“Weakening enforcement of quota limits would risk the future of this fishery and could have some severe consequences for our fishing businesses, as well as the seafood suppliers and seafood consumers who depend on us,” the Shareholders’ Alliance said.
The bill doesn't include any mechanism to ensure that the states live within the red snapper quota on an annual basis, Eric Brazer, deputy director of the Shareholders’ Alliance, told SeafoodSource. “Another way to think about this is that the ‘feds’ will still set the recreational quota but they've been stripped of their ability to enforce it.”
If overfishing is allowed to occur in the private angler sector, it could “put enough pressure on the red snapper stock to drive it back down into an overfished state,” Brazer said. “At that point, the Council/Secretary will be required to reduce quotas for the two sectors still operating under the Magnuson Stevenson Act — the commercial sector and the charter/for-hire sector —while the private angler sector will not be subject to those reductions.”
In addition, the legislation will prove impractical because “the only mechanism to protect the resource and the commercial and federal charter fishing sectors will be to end the new program once too many fish are caught,” Shareholders’ Alliance said. “To truly improve access for recreational fishermen, the bill needs to hold the private recreational sector to its science-based annual catch limits, while allowing the Gulf States to learn to manage the larger fishing area provided in the bill.”