The Wild Side for April 15, 2012

How much more can you stand to read about the tussle between recreational red snapper fishermen and federal fisheries managers will be sorely tested in the coming weeks and months.

Fact is that recreational anglers, especially the folks who venture from Louisiana ports and marinas, finally are angry enough to launch a push for states to ignore the federal waters mandates.

For us and the rest of the Gulf of Mexico, what’s known is there’s a two-red snapper per day limit. What’s not (but will be determined in the next three weeks) is the length of recreational red snapper season. All indications are that we’re looking at a 30-40 day season.

During the past two summers, those harsh restrictions ignored the numbers of red snapper recreational anglers have seen dominate reefs and oil/gas platforms off our coast. Dominate is correct, because in places where there was an abundance of mangrove snapper (10-per-day limit), triggerfish and other species, the highly aggressive red snapper are there to snap at everything thrown their way.

So, not only is there a very restricted catch on what certainly appears to be a very abundant species, but also limited availability of other species to take home and provide food on recreational anglers’ tables.

Taken collectively, this has spawned a growing sentiment about not wasting what is now very expensive fuel to head offshore to catch two fish per person. Another sentiment is that removing recreational fisherman from the equation is a desired objective among some folks living in and off our federal bureaucracy.

Using provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, federal managers have employed outdated formulae and survey methodology and hidden behind words like “overfishing” and “overfished” (which do not mean the same in the federal fisheries lexicon) to continually frustrate recreational fishermen here, across the Gulf of Mexico, in the South Atlantic states and off the Northeast and Pacific coasts for most of the past 10 years.

Use of the word “outdated” isn’t mine: When Magnuson-Stevens was reauthorized in 2008, the act demanded that federal scientists and managers used more modern methods to determine species’ stocks.

It’s only been in the past three years that recreational fishermen began to take more than casual notice of bureaucrats ignoring the act’s mandate and the intended or unintended federal push to push them further into the fishing background.

The earlier-this-month Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting discussion urging the seven-member board to vote non-compliance for the feds’ recreational red snapper dates and limits is a move toward what commission member Billy Broussard said could amount to “civil disobedience.” Well, it’s going take all Gulf states to match that move, then get recreational anglers in all other coastal states to join in a widespread protest to get Congress to take more than casual notice that they’re unhappy.