August 20, 2015

Gulf Council Recognizes Anglers Have Been Short Changed

On August 13, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted in favor (12-5) of increasing the recreational allocation of red snapper quota in the Gulf from 49 percent to 51.5 percent. The shift was based on new information from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), which demonstrates that recreational anglers catch more red snapper than previously counted under the inefficient Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS). The previous allocation of a 49 percent share for recreational anglers and a 51 percent share for commercial was established in the early 1990s.

For more than two decades, recreational anglers have been incorrectly allocated a smaller portion of the overall quota. Alternative 8 of Amendment 28 (Red Snapper Allocation) to the Reef Fish Management Plan corrected that baseline allocation to reflect the new data.  “With the better data from MRIP, Alternative 8 should not have been an alternative for debate at all, but rather an automatic ‘reset’ of the incorrect sector allocation originally established in 1990,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton. “This is often what happens with Councils and sector allocations when they discover their data was wrong. Unfortunately, what should have been a common sense action under the Gulf Council’s management, based on the best available science, became a contentious argument.”

Opponents of reallocation claimed that giving the recreational sector a larger percentage of the quota would take fish away from restaurants and the American consumer. In reality, because the recreational landings are an important factor in determining the red snapper stock size estimates and the overall quota available each year, the quota was increased substantially in 2015 for both the recreational and commercial sectors based on new recreational landings information. Even if the new allocation were in effect today, commercial fishermen would still be able to harvest 1.34 million pounds more than they could last year.

The 12 Council members who voted in favor of the shift in allocations are commended for making the hard choice to change allocations in favor of recreational anglers. Although contentious, the decision to do so was simply in keeping with the Council’s responsibility to manage the fishery based on the best available science.

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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