Backing Down Uncle Sam

Ah, it feels so good to back down the United States government.

Not that I’m a Tea Party goer for the most part.

But there’s no question that our federal fisheries managers finally are backing down to a large extent in the grisly Red Snapper Wars. And there’s no question in our minds that the backdown is due to protests from the fishing community. That includes many of you.

Take at least a partial bow if you will.

What’s happened is that the feds have basically dropped their planned closure of 5,000 square miles of South Atlantic bottom fishing. The shutdown of 73 fish species had been conceived to prevent accidental catches of red snapper, which are claimed to be severely overfished on the basis of the most sketchy science we’ve ever encountered (and screamed about incessantly).

Although the idea is still breathing, on life support, the word we get directly from high officials is that any such bycatch area will if anything be much less restrictive. Considering the deserved rancor toward the plan, we think it’s a goner.

Separately, the National Marine Fisheries Service and its South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, plan to re-address the current total closure of all red snapper takings in the region.

I could be wrong, and maybe I was once that I don’t recall, but I feel certain there will be some kind of red snapper opening around the corner.

At the least, we think the guv should implement a one-fish bag (50 percent less than the two-fish limit that did so well) and if necessary not allow any catches over that highly restrictive number.

Whatever, the two-year red snapper fiasco is calming down, though it may be true that the current fisheries guesstimaters can not be fully trusted.

“You Can’t Beat City Hall,” was and is a popular phrase used to express citizen impotence over governmental missteps, but here’s a case where fishing interests have indeed made huge inroads, even against certain extremely rich environmental extremists who frankly dislike outdoor sportsmen.

It took the expressed outrage of hundreds of anglers to reach this tipping point of victory. We especially commend and thank university scientists Ray Waldner, Tom Chesnes and William (Trey) Kenney, who wrote on assignment for Florida Sportsman articles detailing flaws in the government assessments. FS staffers Jeff Weakley, David Conway, Sam Hudson and Rick Ryals also have toiled hard against the often bewildering data.

Still, there’s plenty to be done to fix the system and to achieve fair allocation to provide the most benefits for the most citizens, and for the fish populations.

For today, enjoy the red snapper developments, and the new year.

Florida Sportsman