Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council divides recreational red snapper quota between private, charter boats

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council on Thursday voted to approve Amendment 40 — a move to divide the annual recreational red snapper quota in the Gulf of Mexico’s federal waters between private anglers and “for-hire” charter boat operations.

The measure passed 10-7.

The approval of the controversial plan could carve as much as 47 percent of the annual recreational red snapper take for charter boat operators, despite the appeal from the governor of Texas and the other four Gulf states, a plea from the 300-member Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and widespread calls from recreational fishermen to turn down the move.

Recreational anglers operated under a plan that gave them 49 percent of the 11-million pound total allowable catch of red snapper. Commercial fishing gets 51 percent of that total. Overall, recreational anglers are granted 5.39 million pounds of red snapper annually.

After a 9-day federal red snapper season this year off of Texas waters, the passage of the amendment will most certainly cut into that next year.

Coastal Conservation Association opposed the measure.

“It is extremely disappointing that such a flawed management proposal was approved in the face of so much opposition,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee in a statement. “Significant questions over key components of Amendment 40 were never adequately addressed. This amendment will create such striking inequities for private recreational anglers that it is difficult to understand how this amendment will be sustainable. It is infuriating that the Gulf Council continues its give away of a public resource when the public has neither a reasonable season nor reasonable size and bag limits for that same resource.”

Not everyone was upset with the decision, however.

Chris Dorsett, vice president for Programs and Policy at Ocean Conservancy, said, “Ocean Conservancy, fishermen, scientists, managers and everyone who has a stake in a healthy Gulf of Mexico have reason to be heartened by the council’s decision. Amendment 40 separates the quantities of red snapper caught by private recreational fishermen and charter for hire captains who provide access to fishing to the non-boat owning public.

“This decision enables a much more tailored approach to ensuring that red snapper populations in the Gulf are healthy for generations to come.”

Read much more on what this issue means for Texas anglers — both private and commercial — in the next issue of Lone Star Outdoor News, out Nov. 14.