On April 30, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted a Breakfast Briefing on Capitol Hill on the topic, “The Solution to Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper: State-based Management.” Ten Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), state fish and wildlife agency representatives, and CSF partners gathered to discuss the current challenges and a path forward to resolving this important issue.
Discussion focused on the inability of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to effectively manage the red snapper fishery and the resulting need to move management authority to the Gulf state fish and wildlife agencies. The current use of a ‘one size fits all’ commercial fisheries management model for Gulf red snapper has resulted in the shortest recreational fishing season in history last year, despite a healthy and rapidly growing population of Gulf red snapper.
CSF Midwestern States Director Chris Horton introduced the event speakers and the briefing topic. “This isn’t about commercial versus recreational fishermen. It’s about a federal system of management that is systematically failing a significant component of the fishery,” said Horton. “There’s plenty of room in the fishery for both, but it is going to require a different management approach to make the fishery whole again and truly accountable to the American public.”
Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Congressman Garret Graves (LA) said, “Over the last several years, we’ve seen our access to recreational fishing, particularly the red snapper, decrease from year-round to nine days in 2014; and this year, perhaps even fewer. If you look at how the fisheries have been managed over the last several years, and you look at the lack of public access, and compare that to how we manage any other public resource, you see an extraordinary disparity. That’s not how we manage public resources.”
In March, the five Gulf States Marine Fisheries Directors collaborated on the development of a new state-based management plan. Randy Pausina, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Fisheries at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries along with Robin Riechers, Director of Coastal Fisheries from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, presented on the importance of this regional plan for Gulf red snapper management.
“[Federal agencies] are too far removed. As state directors, we are the people who manage our constituents and talk with them directly. States do it better,” said Pausina. For example, in the same year, Louisiana Fish and Wildlife biologists measured 23 times more fish and interviewed more than 49 times the vessel trips than the Marine Recreational Information Program (the NMFS program).
“All of the Gulf state directors recognize the need for greater flexibility when managing fisheries, as we manage more to localized needs,” said Riechers. “Every Gulf state is doing new, more innovative methods of data collection [than Federal methods].”
Concluding the Briefing, American Sportfishing Association President Mike Nussman spoke about the sportfishing industry’s support of the states’ plan. Both anglers and the sportfishing industry have long had a strong relationship with state fish and wildlife agencies because of their ability to manage fisheries resources in a way that allows for healthy populations and public access.
Sponsors of today’s Breakfast Briefing included: American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, and National Marine Manufacturers Association.
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?