It’s scandalous anytime government (representing all of us) gets caught taking the worst bid.

The aroma arises when a city or other entity sells or awards an object or service without respecting the “highest and best” bidder.

The worst bidder wins, the public loses.Our federal government’s frequent mismanagement of fisheries is a blatant example of awards to the worst bidder, though the incompetence seems due more to cronyistic backroom influencing than outright corruption.

A most startling example is a new proposal to slash the recreational bag limit for red grouper from two to one and shut down all non-commercial grouper fishing for up to four months (see Conservation Front).

Based on a bizarre pack of data that no one quite believes, the National Marine Fisheries Service (once the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries) wants to stifle family-level grouper fishing even though industrial commercial fishing already takes 80 percent (!) of the red grouper.

What we’ll wind up with, if the plan is imposed on Florida, is the harebrained (so named for the alleged intelligence level of that long-eared rabbit) scenario where a typical citizen could not take a single grouper while a big longline boat next to him hauls up 10,000 pounds of reds for the market. Now we’ve seen strange doings from the feds but this one surely drifted in from another planet.

Shenanigans of this order might be easier to swallow if those big longliners represented the “highest and best bidder.”

They don’t. They’re the worst bidder.

Personal-use fishermen “pay” tenfold and more than commercials for the fish they catch, in economic impact and value to society, not to mention a fairness concept which should allocate the animals to all equally.

There’s just no comparison, though the NMFS ignores the facts.

Regarding red grouper, a study of catches out of Destin reports an economic impact of $350 million for recreational fishing versus the $18 million in dockside sales by commercial vessels.

Then there’s the precious word used more than any other to justify commercial excesses: JOBS.

“We’re out there making a living, and you guys are just having fun,” goes the claim.

Well, we do have fun (when possible) all right, but it’s fun that supports huge numbers of jobs and societal benefits.

In short, the regular John Doe fisherman is the highest and best bidder.

His bag limit of red grouper should never, ever be slashed below two (remember, it was five just a couple years ago) and there should be no closed months.

If an overall catch reduction is deemed necessary, take some from that inordinate share being awarded year after year to the worst bidder.

Let the scandals end.


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