GULF RESIDENTS OVERWHELMINGLY OPPOSE BID TO CUT ACCESS TO RED SNAPPER

Key West, Florida – As the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council resumes consideration of a proposal this week to reallocate red snapper away from consumers, a new review of Council records released today shows that Gulf residents who have submitted written comments on the plan oppose it by a nearly 3-1 margin.

Known as “Amendment 28,” the plan would permanently shift the amount of red snapper caught in the Gulf away from commercial fishermen and consumers and towards the recreational sector. Red snapper is a shared fishery and the total allowable catch is already split almost evenly between commercial and recreational fishermen. Frustrating recreational fishermen and others, anglers are regrettably stuck in a failed management system that leads to shorter and shorter seasons every year

While the vast majority of recreational and commercial fishermen believe in sharing the Gulf’s resources, some suggest that the solution is simply to take fish from consumers and reserve more of it for offshore recreational fishing. Share the Gulf and the vast majority of Gulf residents disagree.

As of June 20, 2014, the Council received thousands of comments from Gulf residents on the measure. A review done by Share the Gulf of these comments shows that Gulf residents who oppose reallocation far outnumber those who support it, both as a region and in each individual Gulf state. In addition, during a series of public hearings this spring, representatives from the Council heard from an overwhelming number of recreational and commercial fishermen as well as other stakeholders who believe “Amendment 28” should be voted down by the Council.

Share the Gulf just submitted a letter to the Gulf Council signed by its state co-chairs from across the region. The Share the Gulf coalition represents more than 30,000 Gulf residents, including hundreds of chefs, restaurateurs, fishermen, seafood industry leaders, retailers, and conservationists, as well as every state restaurant association across the Gulf of Mexico and the National Restaurant Association. The letter from Share the Gulf states, “reallocation will hurt Gulf seafood businesses and will not help recreational fishermen.”

“There is increasing consumer demand for fresh, locally caught seafood,” said Chef Stephen Stryjewski, Share the Gulf’s Chef Co-Chair of New Orleans. “Gulf red snapper is a huge draw at restaurants like mine for tourists and locals alike and limiting the supply would hurt my business.”

Not only is the public opposed to reallocation, the economic justification for it just isn’t there.  Amendment 28 in its current form (“Alternative 5”) would take nearly half a million pounds of red snapper out of the commercial seafood market next year alone and shift the majority of future increases to the recreational sector. This is in exchange for adding maybe one day to a nine-day recreational fishing season. With this proposal, everybody loses. It is not surprising that NMFS scientists and the Council’s own socioeconomic advisors have repeatedly raised concerns about the validity of the economic analysis used to justify reallocation.

“Reallocating fish is not the answer to the problems recreational fishermen are facing,” said Shane Cantrell, a charter captain from Galveston, Texas and Share the Gulf member. “We need a management plan that will actually increase fishing opportunities over the long term. Amendment 28 is a false promise to Gulf anglers.”

“Every American should be able to enjoy the seafood from our fisheries we’ve worked so hard to rebuild,” said John Schmidt, a commercial fisherman from Clearwater, Florida and Share the Gulf co-chair. “The Council should be focused on new management plans that will actually improve seasons for recreational fishermen, not reallocation schemes that hurt seafood providers and consumers.”

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