October 01, 2011
I've got inside word from high in federal red snapper management.
Here's a top official's cogent analysis:
That's the sad but not really surprising summary from a lead figure in the red snapper madness. He added:
“I think this fall will be the tipping point for red snapper management. If NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) doesn't get things straight, I wouldn't be surprised to see the governors or Congress step in.”
Meanwhile, at this point, no one can tell you what days on the Gulf may be opened for red snapper fishing. Maybe the third Thursday after the first Wednesday in December, for three days.
The Atlantic side remains shut tight, even as red snapper populations spill out the cupboards.
Government fisheries folks still rely on hopelessly inaccurate and unsourced
guesstimates from World War II days, combined with amateurish and changing methods that have been repeatedly exposed as false.
They do enjoy bizarre support from a few unknowing groups such as the PEW Trust, which is loaded with money but short on competence. Even now, PEW circulates a fancy color brochure claiming that red snapper plunged from an average (totally undocumented) of 24 pounds to 7.2 pounds in '85 and then 1 pound “today.”
Now, a new NMFS report on average size claims Gulf red snappers are up from 5.34 to 6.22 pounds in the past year.
Not long ago, the Gulf Council had already re-evaluated its red snapper claim of overfishing and reversed itself. And yet the increased average size just reported is causing talk of not a longer season but a shorter one, or elimination of it, due to a numbers and poundage manipulation.
On it goes.
Since “jobs” is every pol's favorite word now, let's get out of this sorry mess by doing the following:
Open personal-use-only red snapper fishing year around, with a tight bag limit. Monitor stocks closely with solid science such as catch-per-unit-of-effort studies.
This simple-enough change would cause a surge in boating and fishing activity that would translate into thousands of jobs and far-reaching economic benefits.
The same astounding gains that have come because of the the good fishing for redfish inshore can extend offshore to red snapper.
Such a reform is likely to happen some day, but do we have to wait until so many lives and communities are further degraded?