I read with interest the column by Billie “Bubba” Cochrane (“Why local fishermen support the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” The Daily News, Oct. 25).

His views are not surprising since, as a commercial fisherman, his right to fish for red snapper anytime he wants in federal waters is protected by the allocation given to him by the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Unfortunately, the recreational fishermen don’t have the same freedom, guarantees and protections.

Earlier this year the National Marine Fisheries Service allocated the recreational fishermen only three days of red snapper fishing in federal waters; what a (bad) joke that was! With Congressman Garret Graves, R.-La., leading the charge, he was able to get the season expanded, but to the chagrin of non-recreational fishermen who claimed the expanded recreational fishing season would push back fishery recovery efforts.

In his column, Cochrane talked about basing the allocation for red snapper fishing on “science-based management.” The problem is the key to a well-managed red snapper fishery is accurate data — data which seems to have eluded the fisheries service. The fisheries service’s data doesn’t line up with what fishermen are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico. What they are telling me is there are so many red snapper out there it’s hard to catch anything else.

What I suggested earlier this year, as one of the Three Musketeers, was that we turn over the management of the red snapper fishery to the five Gulf Coast states. They have a proven track record for managing the fisheries under their jurisdictions. They have also demonstrated an ability to get accurate data on the size of their fisheries.

Everybody wants to protect the red snapper fishery. It is a national treasure and a resource that needs to be well-managed and protected. So here are a couple of ideas to consider:

• Red snapper is a deepwater fish, and when fishermen catch snapper that are not large enough to keep they throw them back in the water. Unfortunately, those thrown overboard typically die because they cannot make it safely back to their deepwater habitat. This has a major impact on the fishery, given the number of red snapper being killed, but not harvested, by the commercial fishermen. So what if you did away with the size limit for the commercial sector and required that all red snapper caught be part of their individual fishing quotas?

• When people cut timber off federal lands or drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico they pay the U.S. government a royalty. Is commercial harvesting of red snapper any different? Why not consider charging a reasonable royalty based upon the commercial fisherman’s allocation? Recreational fisherman, likewise, might pay for a small royalty fee when they get their annual saltwater fishing license.

The bottom line: We must get accurate data on the size of the fishery and find solutions that are fair and equitable to the recreational and commercial fishermen.

Bill Sargent, who lives in Galveston, is running for Congress.

(6) comments

Gary Miller

The big difference between sport and commercial quotas is lobbying. Commercials have a great, 1,000 to 1, advantage in lobbying.

Bill Cochrane

Gary, you are showing your lack of knowledge about the snapper fishery.
If the commercial has this great advantage with 1,000 to 1 lobbyists, why is there so many politicians jumping on the bandwagon presenting bills that fight recreational accountability, seek to eliminate commercial fishing, and promise more fishing days to boat owning snapper fishermen? Answer: - CCA bought and paid for LOBBYISTS!

David Smith

Their goal was to eliminate commercial fishing all together.. and when thats done .. they turn on the sports fisherman.. .. and sports fisherman support this.. a wolve in sheeps clothing...been going on since the 80s

Bill Cochrane

David, who are you talking about when you say "their" and "they". ??

Bill Cochrane

Mr. Sargent, I am amazed that after all the research you have done on the recreational snapper issue, you think that the commercial snapper fishery has anything to do with the short recreational snapper seasons?
The recreational snapper fishery and the commercial snapper fishery are two distinctly different fisheries.
The commercial federal snapper fishery is controlled and enforced under an Individual Fishing Quota program. This system mandates 100% accountability and real-time data. There is a “royalty” or “tax” of 3% of each IFQ shareholders gross catch. Of course, there’s always that other federal tax on income. The size limit on snapper has been reduced to only 13 inches to drastically reduce throw backs.
The recreational fishery for federal snapper, on the other hand, needs an accountable, sustainable system, that can produce real-time data.
Why do national recreational groups think that hurting the commercial sector, or using conservation-based quotas is a bad idea, while claiming to be conservation based?
For some reason, the recreational problem always turns into a recreational vs. commercial thing. Why?
Could the Gulf States manage snapper in federal waters better that the feds? Think about that. Even when there was a very real snapper shortage years ago, the State of Texas allowed their state waters to remain open 365 day a year with twice the federal limit, allowing 4 snappers per day, and to this day still refuse to close state waters when the federal waters are closed. Is that really considered a good track record?
Part of the State plan is for the states to manage the commercial sector too. Again. Why? What does the commercial sector have to do with the short recreational season?
Are your opinions based on conservation, or the number of votes you hope to get by ignoring the real issues of the recreational sector, and blaming the commercial fishermen for the recreational problems?

Carol Dean

Don't be surprised by Bill Sargent's lack of information. He has never been good at doing research! Be glad that he is no longer involved in the Galveston County election process! Maybe now we can see some consistent integrity in our elections.

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