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federal ruling on snapper allocation favors commercial fisherman

markw4321markw4321 Posts: 171 Officer
This about tears the rag off the bush...so to speak.


by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

A federal ruling has been handed down that the U.S. government violated the law by failing to properly manage the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper fishery.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled favorably on all five counts for 21 plaintiffs comprised of commercial fishermen in a lawsuit against Penny Sue Pritzker, acting in the official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

In the ruling the court agreed that the persistent overharvesting by the recreational fishing sector in recent years has harmed all stakeholders in the fishery, including commercial and recreational fishermen and fishing communities, and deprived consumers of access to fresh fish.

Lack of Accountability by Recreational

The plaintiffs argued that the National Marine Fisheries Services violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the law governing federal fisheries, by failing to implement sufficient accountability measures to ensure that the recreational fishing sector adheres to its annual fishing quota.

“We are very excited that the judge agreed with us on all counts,” said one of the plaintiffs in the case, David Krebs, president of Florida’s Ariel Seafood and a Gulf Seafood Institute board member. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink
The decision also found that the lack of accountability measures in the recreational sector caused a de facto reallocation of the red snapper fishery from the commercial sector to the recreational sector in violation of statutory and regulatory requirements.

“We are very excited that the judge agreed with us on all counts,” said one of the plaintiffs in the case, David Krebs, president of Florida’s Ariel Seafood and a Gulf Seafood Institute board member. “For years recreational fishermen have been frustrated, it is past time to fix their recreational accountability problems. The Gulf Council has continued failed them.”

Inadequate controls have permitted the recreational sector to routinely catch far more red snapper than it is allocated under the fishery management plan.

The fifty-page ruling cited NMFS administrator Roy Crabtree’s description of recreational sector’s particular management uncertainties to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Managements Council’s Reef Fish Management Committee in January 2013, and to the full Council in June 2013.

The fifty-page ruling cited NMFS administrator Roy Crabtree description of recreational sector’s particular management uncertainties. Photo: NOAA
During those meetings Crabtree statements about the recreational fishing sector included, “If you look at the performance of the fishery in the past, we have, more often than not, had overages in the range of a million pounds. We still have a lot of management uncertainty in this fishery in terms of our ability to close the fisheries on time in the recreational sector.”

He went on to say about the recreational sector, “There’s been a great deal of management uncertainty and that’s reflected in the quota overruns to the recreational sector. We all know there’s a great deal of uncertainty inherent in determining when to close the recreational fishery and what they’re ultimately going to catch.”

Commercial fishermen and associated businesses that filed the lawsuit hailed the Court’s decision as a step towards better management of the red snapper fishery.

Litigation Not First Choice

“We have been working with the recreational sector for a long time, and we hope this ruling will strengthen that cooperation,” said plaintiff Buddy Guindon, owner of Katie’s Seafood in Galveston. “The ruling lays the groundwork for a better fishery management plan that will result in a better stock of fish.”

“We have been working with the recreational sector for a long time, and we hope this ruling will strengthen that cooperation,” said plaintiff Buddy Guindon, owner of Katie’s Seafood in Galveston. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink
According to the Galveston red snapper fisherman, “Litigation was not our first choice, but the agency’s mismanagement posed a real threat to the entire red snapper fishery, and to the businesses dependent on it. We look forward to working with NMFS and the Gulf Council to solve a longstanding issue in this fishery—the need for accountability measures in the recreational sector.”


  • CrabmanCrabman Posts: 29 Greenhorn
    A similar situation is going on in the Bluefin Tuna fishery. Sportfishermen have not been properly reporting their ABT catch thus making it appear they don't need their allocation. Up for consideration, giving recreational quota to the longline industry to account for their discards.


  • ACME Ventures FishingACME Ventures Fishing Posts: 851 Officer
    No Where in this EDF and Commercial Fishery lawsuit against the NMFS and Recreational Anglers has
    the fact that the NMFS used overestimated recreational effort numbers and underestimated biomass and
    stock data. It seems quite apparent that the allocation of Red Snapper being given any preference to
    Family Level Anglers is unthinkable to these special interest groups. They also seem to be suggesting that
    Recreational Anglers are punished with AM's for the NMFS failings. While most agree that the NMFS is
    grossly negligent, this lawsuit is not addressing any of the real issues with their negligence, but only
    the proposal to move forward with the allocation issue. Seems this group is eyeing the increases in allocation
    as an opportunity to increase their own quota. Capping the commercially biased quota at 9.1mp to them
    would end their stranglehold on this resource, despite the 900% superior value of the resource when
    caught recreationally on the economic impact. Why would they want to hurt the coastal economies by
    restricting recreational access? Only one answer, personal profit.

    What's perhaps most sickening is that they suggested that they were doing this FOR the recreational sector,
    to force the NMFS to fix their data. I seriously doubt that they will make any friends as a result of this,
    but many enemies are likely being added against their group. The Share the Gulf and Gulf Seafood Newsroom
    continues to spread misinformation about the issue, but we know these groups and the commercial fishery
    groups all have a tight alliance with groups like EDF and restaurant associations, so its not surprising. Not one mention
    of the NMFS grossly overestimation recreational effort by 300% to 400% as a reason for the "On Paper" classification
    of overfishing. No Mention of the likely underestimating of Red Snapper stocks due to the stock assessments
    methods of calculation, which includes estimated harvest numbers from the grossly overestimated recreational
    effort, or the failure to fully include stock on artificial structure. It seems that the only complaint that they really
    focused on is that the recreational sector "Continues to Overfish their Quota", and that the NMFS is not punishing
    them with AM's.

    Perhaps the NMFS should suspend ALL Red Snapper fishing until BOTH user groups can reach a mutually
    agreeable solution. That would include Commercial IFQ holders. Maybe then the Commercial group would
    not be so fast in trying to throw their recreational brothers under the bus simply to increase their own wealth.

    Oh yeah, this EDF/Commercial Alliance also did not disclose that the Commercial IFQ sector has underfished
    the ARS quota while allowing market prices to escalate. If they really wanted the fish to supply restaurants
    and "Millions" of non-boat owning Americans with their 1/25th of 1% of US commercial harvest, then maybe
    they should start fishing their allowable quota?
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