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Small businesses testify on red snapper policy

Red snapper was a topic on Capitol Hill Friday as lawmakers received testimony about the effects on small business of federal fisheries management.

Red snapper was a topic on Capitol Hill Friday as lawmakers received testimony about the effects on small business of federal fisheries management.

The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship heard about challenges from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of Maine.

“Federal policy has obstructed our access to the great outdoors,” said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., lead witness at the hearing, according to a statement issued by the Center for Coastal Conservation.

A champion of marine conservation, Graves reflected on fishing opportunities from his childhood spanning 365 days a year for Gulf red snapper, compared with only 10 days now available for his children.

“These restrictions are strangling small businesses along our coast,” he said.

Hughes Andry, vice president of Sportco Marketing, a representative agency based in Houston that distributes fishing tackle, also testified.

“In the years prior to the current federal mismanagement of Gulf red snapper, a dealer would expect a 25 to 30 percent lift in business leading up to and during the spring to fall seasons,” Andry told the committee.

“Some dealers are reporting as much as a 40 percent deficit in sales due to the current management. That is a fairly significant amount to any level of tackle dealer, much less the mom-and-pop independent retailer.”

Small Business Committee chairman Sen. David Vitter, R-La., convened the hearing, highlighting a recent Government Accountability Office report that said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries lacks a comprehensive strategy related to fisheries data collection.

“Proper data collection is paramount for proper management,” Vitter said. “Gulf anglers are an economic powerhouse for both Louisiana and the entire Gulf region, which makes protecting the public’s access to these resources even more important.”

“Small businesses in our industry have been unreasonably burdened by federal mandates,” said Pam Anderson, operations manager of Capt. Anderson's Marina in Panama City, Fla. “Compounding the problem, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council under the direction of NOAA Fisheries has picked winners and losers in the commercial industry through catch shares. Now they are attempting to do the same in the charter-for-hire industry. Catch shares are designed to reduce access — and put people out of business.”

“The Gulf states are significantly better equipped to manage this public resource in a way that maximizes its benefits to the nation — both recreationally and commercially,” Andry said. “I urge Congress to act now to set Gulf red snapper management on a new course and away from the current system that is failing small businesses throughout the Gulf region.”

Fisheries economist Brad Gentner spoke about cause and effect, saying abundant fisheries drive effort for saltwater recreational anglers.

“Effort drives spending and value for small businesses, which should be a good thing,” Gentne said. “But at the moment that value is not only being ignored, it is being squandered.”



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