In times of plenty, it can be easy to forget the times of scarcity. We’ve been fortunate in recent years to experience what seems to be an exponentially increasing red snapper population.
Texas is a fishing hot spot for this iconic species. In 2017, commercial red snapper fishermen caught 2.2 million pounds, almost double the amount landed 10 years ago. Charter-for-hire fishermen have longer and more stable seasons under sector separation. Private recreational fishermen have enjoyed longer seasons under the state management since 2018.
The road to success hasn’t been easy. At some point, all fishermen have been frustrated about red snapper, how much we’re allowed to catch, when we’re allowed to catch it, and what’s the best way to manage it. It’s important to remember that reliable data, and science are the tools that have led us to this increased access.
Thankfully, the U.S. has the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), which provides tools and guidance for managers to base management decisions on science, while still allowing fishermen to voice their opinion in the process through the regional Fishery Management Councils.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) will meet here in Galveston on Monday through Oct. 25, and the meeting is open to the public. Anyone concerned with how fisheries are managed should be there.
Working with the Gulf Council, commercial fishermen have explored innovative ways, like the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program, to rebuild red snapper, while still helping us find stability in our business and deliver product to American seafood consumers year-round.
Thanks to the IFQ Program, I feel more confident that I’m leaving behind a healthy fishery and stable business to my sons who can one day continue my legacy.
The Gulf Council and the Magnuson-Stevens Act provided opportunity to explore new ways to manage private anglers too. For the last two years, the Gulf states have been piloting programs that would allow them to manage the private angler component of the red snapper fishery, which has led to longer fishing seasons than in recent history. Commercial fishermen are cautiously optimistic about this new management system.
Like the IFQ program, it’s an innovative way to try something new. But most importantly, it provides increased access without taking anything away from commercial and charter fishermen.
So long as state management doesn’t harm commercial fishermen, keeps the recreational sector from going over their quotas, and prevents any backsliding in red snapper recovery, it should be a good thing for Texas fishermen and Texas fish.
I welcome the Gulf Council to Galveston and applaud their continued work to conserve fish species in the Gulf and ensure that all Americans, whether inland or on the coast, have the opportunity to enjoy eating the amazing seafood we have to offer.
October, which is National Seafood Month, is the perfect time to come together and continue finding ways to ensure the Gulf of Mexico, its fish and its fishing businesses, are sustainable now and for future generations.