Battle continues over Gulf red-snapper quotas

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Red snapper is back on the table.

A contentious Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting is under way this week to determine the future of red snapper and how much of them recreational anglers can catch.

An amendment that anglers oppose, saying it would unfairly allocate too much of the snapper catch to charter boat captains, has charter boat operators complaining that blocking the amendment would allow “liberal state-water red snapper seasons.”

In just three days, more than 1,000 comments opposing the new amendment regarding the fish and the ongoing controversy over who is allowed to catch it — and when — came from fishermen and women across the Gulf Coast.

“It is a very ugly battle in the Gulf Council this week on the issue,” Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers told Trade Only Today.

The meeting, which is taking place in Mobile, Alabama, will be “very, very contentious”until the council issues a decision on Thursday, Angers said.

The comments are asking the council to focus on ensuring fair management of Gulf red snapper for everyone and “not just select individuals.”

The Charter Fisherman’s Association sent Florida Gov. Rick Scott a letter asking him to help "save us from a bad Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decision."

The proposal known as Amendment 40, Sector Separation, would take roughly half the recreational quota of red snapper and reserve it solely for the charter/for-hire industry for its own use, according to the Center for Coastal Conservation.

“Amendment 40 is the critical first step to enacting a catch share program for charter/for-hire operators, modeled exactly like the ownership program for the commercial red snapper sector in which less than 400 individuals own 51 percent of the entire fishery,”the center said in a statement. “If approved, it is virtually certain that up to 75 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery will be locked up by private businesses forever.”

Since its introduction, the proposal has elicited thousands of comments in opposition.But the state of Florida has followed others and sided with the recreational anglers, Angers told Trade Only.

In recent weeks, Florida, Texas and Louisiana have each sent letters to the council in opposition to Amendment 40.

“This is a huge moment for recreational anglers, as it will set a precedent for how federal fisheries are managed from this point forward,” Bill Bird, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association’s national government relations committee, said in a statement.

“The council must see past the chaos of the moment and forge a solid path forward for everyone. Amendment 40 will simply lock this broken system into place. If this is the best federal management can do, then it is past time to let the states take a greater role.”

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