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Gulf Council Sells Out on Red Snapper

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council made a disappointing decision last week on red snapper that will split the recreational quota between private anglers and charter/for hire captains.

The move, which is likely to limit recreational anglers to a few short days of harvest on this highly prized fish-despite the remarkable fact that the fishery is in better shape than it has been in at least 40 years, with more fish, bigger fish and a more widely-distributed fishery than at any time in modern memory-is viewed by many as the first step in privatizing a public resource that is extremely valuable both in dollars and in recreational potential.

The forces allied against recreational anglers on this effort include "green" organizations from outside the fishing world which many suspect of wanting to stop fishing, period, as well as commercial harvesters, who stand to make millions from taking what should be a public resource. The draconian rules were originally billed as an effort to meet the demands of the poorly crafted Magnuson-Stevens requirements to restore the red snapper fishery as rapidly as possible, but now the effort has clearly morphed into something else-the fishery, by all accounts from almost every user familiar with the population, is as good or better than it has been in decades, yet the move to shut anglers out of the harvest goes on apace.

One force against the sell out is the Coastal Conservation Association, an organization which has repeatedly stood up for anglers' rights over the last 40 years. Here's their take on the new ruling:

"It is extremely disappointing that such a flawed management proposal was approved in the face of so much opposition," said Bill Bird, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association's National Government Relations Committee. "Significant questions over key components of Amendment 40 were never adequately addressed. This amendment will create such striking inequities for private recreational anglers that it is difficult to understand how this amendment will be sustainable. It is infuriating that the Gulf Council continues its give away of a public resource when the public has neither a reasonable season nor reasonable size and bag limits for that same resource."

Amendment 40 is widely regarded as the first step to a catch share program for a privileged few in the charter/for-hire industry, similar to the one in place for the commercial red snapper industry. With passage of this amendment, the way is cleared for up to 70 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery to be privately held, while recreational anglers who fish on their own boats will find their access to federal waters severely limited.

"This decision reflects a disturbing trend in federal fisheries management where a coalition of environmental groups, industrial harvesters and some charter/for-hire businesses are lobbying to reduce angler access to public marine resources," said Bird. "It is clear by the level of opposition to Amendment 40 that we are not alone in our conviction that it should not be allowed to stand."

For more information on the controversy over Amendment 40, visit

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