The Wild Side for August 12, 2012

For all of what’s happened during the past three months concerning Louisiana’s future in the recreational red snapper business, the next eight months promise to be all that and more.

How much more will depend on what happens later this month when Department of Wildlife and Fisheries marine fisheries managers outline their plans for how our state will manage fish species off Louisiana’s coast.

That presentation will be made to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. It’ll be the second time the state approached the GMFMC with the plan presumably to control the recreational take of red snapper from waters from our state’s coast out to 200 miles.

In short, the state folks want to extract what they believe is a fair percentage of the annual recreational red snapper allocation for the waters off our coast. What they plan to do is require all recreational fishermen, or recreational boats, to have a red snapper permit, to report catches, set daily-catch and season regulations and be better able to count the recreational red snapper catch.

State marine biologist Joey Shepard said state managers approached the GMFMC in June with the plan — Shepard said the council “showed some interest” — but that’s the starting spot. Next up will be is the National Marine Fisheries Service, then the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, then the U.S. Department of Commerce.

That’s the rub here, and why as enticing as it sounds, the plan might never be approved.

Those layers are big problems with federal management, and that alphabet soup that is the GMFMC, NMFS and NOAA are under Commerce Department in the first place. If you equate fishing with commerce, then you’re almost always forced to look at fish as a commodity.

When you do that, recreational fishing is always going to take a backseat to commercial fishing efforts, and the Department of Commerce spends millions of our dollars annually to make sure there are fish available for the commercial market.

The point recreational fishing groups have been trying to make is that recreational fishing has a “commerce” side to it, too. Recreational fishing creates lots of jobs and has an economic engine that generates billions of dollars, all of which translates in millions of dollars in sales and local, state and federal income taxes.

When you shift that economic engine into high gear, it’s easy to know that the latest and very restrictive federally mandated recreational red snapper season has the recreational fishing business spinning its wheels.

All our state managers want to do to put some traction back into recreational fishing.

It took a long time for our state managers to understand the impact of recreational fishing in Louisiana. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long for the federal folks to understand that, too.