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Council approves red-snapper plan opposed by anglers

Fishery managers in the Gulf of Mexico region approved a contentious management plan for red snapper that recreational fishermen say will give charter captains the lion’s share of the catch allowance.

Critics said the move was further evidence that the law governing saltwater fishing in the United States should be amended to specifically include recreational anglers instead of lumping the commercial and recreational sectors together.

On Friday, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved the plan, which anglers say will take a significant percentage of the recreational quota and reserve it solely for use by the charter/for-hire industry.

Thousands of comments came from fishermen and women opposing the move, but the Charter Fishermen’s Association campaigned for the measure’s approval.

"When federal fisheries management is reduced to giving away public resources for private benefit, it’s clearly time for change,”Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers told Trade Only Today in an email. "The solution to this federally created mess rests with the Congress. Legislative solutions to move management to the states, like the Gulf Red Snapper Conservation Act, should receive prompt attention."

The council approved Amendment 40, known as sector separation, by a 10-7 vote over opposition from several Gulf states, Congress, the vast majority of recreational anglers and even from within the charter/for-hire industry itself.

The amendment had received opposition from states such as Florida, Texas and Louisiana, but was championed by the charter fishing industry.

“We were disappointed by the council's decision on Amendment 40, which will further limit the Gulf red snapper season for millions of recreational anglers,”Yamaha Marine government relations manager Martin Peters told Trade Only Today.“According to the [National Marine Fisheries Service’s] own data, the economic impact of recreational anglers is greater than that of the commercial sector,”Peters said.

The amendment will now be sent to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker for final approval.

“Last week's decision serves as the perfect example of why strong recreational fishing language must be included in the upcoming reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,”the federal law that dictates saltwater fisheries management, Peters said.

The recreational boating and fishing industry has launched a campaign to include language that specifically addresses recreational fishing. Recent efforts fell short despite some optimism that a new bill would include such language, but advocates continued their push on Capitol Hill.

“Yamaha will continue to work with conservation leaders, boat dealers, boatbuilders and others in the industry to see that it does,” Peters said.

“It is extremely disappointing that such a flawed management proposal was approved in the face of so much opposition,”Bill Bird, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee, said in a statement.

“Significant questions over key components of Amendment 40 were never adequately addressed,”Bird said. “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 giveaway of a public resource when the public has neither a reasonable season nor reasonable size and bag limits for that same resource.”

With passage of the amendment, the way is cleared for as much as 70 percent of the 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, Bird said.

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