October 30, 2014

A House Now Divided – Gulf Council Votes to Split Recreational Anglers

Despite strong opposition, including a letter from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus House Co-Chairs urging exploration of other solutions, the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council (Council) voted last week to approve Amendment 40, otherwise known as “sector separation.” The action effectively split the remaining 49 percent share of the red snapper quota (the commercial sector already has 51 percent of the harvestable quota) between the charter/for-hire sector and the private recreational angler. The extremely contentious decision comes on the heels of the shortest recreational season ever (nine days) despite the healthiest population of red snapper in recorded history.

Understandably, the charter/for-hire industry was at a breaking point and recreational management of red snapper needed fundamental change. Unfortunately, the decision to split the recreational sector is an inappropriate attempt at a solution to a much larger problem of poor federal management of the fishery, and only furthers the case for state-based regional management.

For now, the split is temporary as the final action contained a three-year sunset clause. This clause requires the Council to revisit Amendment 40 within the next three years or it will expire. During that time, the states will be working towards Amendment 39, which provides the states with the authority to manage the recreational sector of the fishery as a whole, both in state and federal waters. Amendment 39 also made headway at the meeting when all five Gulf Coast States reached an agreement on the percent of the harvestable recreational quota allocated to each state, which had previously been a stumbling block for the amendment.

CSF will continue to work with the states and the recreational community to develop a more effective process of state-based management of the recreational fishery that includes both the private recreational angler and the charter/for-hire component.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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