The Wild Side: Drama over red snapper continues

Talk to older fishermen, the guys who spent time in Louisiana’s offshore waters in the 1960s and 70s and, to a man, they say they never thought deep-water fishing would come to this.

“This” being the constant squabbling over red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

By now, most of you know the 10-year plan, that infamous Amendment 22, adopted by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council was designed to end overfishing of red snapper by 2010 and rebuild stocks in the Gulf by 2032.

The annual quotas on recreational and commercial sectors appeared to work extraordinarily well. By 2009, when recreational red snapper seasons were being reduced to weeks not months, Louisiana’s recreational fishermen said they were finding red snapper where they’d never seen them before.

That cry became louder each year to the point where, in 2012, the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved a plan to establish a red snapper season for state waters that turned the federal fisheries managers on their collective ear.

The federal folks responded by cutting Louisiana’s offshore season to 9 days and did much the same to Texas, another state that set a season outside the ultra-restrictive federal framework.

Louisiana and Texas sued the feds, won, and the National Marine Fisheries Service folks were forced into a June 1-28 season. In the process of arguing the suit to end this discriminatory NMFS practice, the two states and an increasing number of non-federal marine biologists proved to the federal court that federal fishery management routinely overestimated the recreational snapper catch.

OK, so all was settled, right?

Nope. It came to light Thursday that 28 commercial fishermen from Florida, Texas and Alabama joined in a suit with an organization called “Fish for America,” and with the full support of the Environmental Defense Fund to continue the already well-known flawed date-collection process and further limit recreational access to what fully appears to be a well-recovered red snapper stocks, especially the stock off the Louisiana coast.

Or that’s what it looks like the commercial suit seeks. In the pages upon pages of the document filed in federal court — Guindon (commercial fisherman) vs. Pritzer (U.S. Commerce secretary) — it took the plaintiffs 83 paragraphs to get to the point: “NMFS’ failure to effectively manage the recreational sector has allowed the recreational sector to regularly exceed its catch limits and the failure to adopt effective management and accountability measures will result in future overharvesting of red snapper by the recreational sector.”

That comes from a group that caused overfishing in the first place, and its something recreational fishermen, and all those who depend on recreational fishing dollars, have been paying for for years.

Know something, it takes lots of guts and gall for the pot to call the kettle black.