Time to ask some questions to the states management directors
16 Mar 2016

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Why not a private boat reef fish tag system? How come the recreational angler lobby groups like CCA and RFA don’t work for all the recreational saltwater anglers, just only boat owners ? Why do the recreational angler lobby groups want to end commercial fishing and consumer access to wild caught fish? Dont they have plenty of angling opportunity and access to more species that have no commercial quota? Don’t they have anywhere from 100% to 75% of allocation for most species in the Gulf now ? When is it ever enough? These questions and more are not being asked to the private boat lobby when they spew their angry venom towards fishery managers both at the federal and state levels. In fact they have created such a uproar over perceived mismanagement by the federal managers that they have brow beat state commissions into doing their bidding without ever a commission or commissioners ever asking the above questions. This special interest group is so articulate at blaming everyone else but themselves for recreational management failures that they are actually believing their own lies. Better yet they have taken the Dog and Pony show to DC along with the state directors and the misinformation machine has gone into overdrive duping well intentioned Congressional representatives to think that some how the state commissions and 5 state directors have the silver bullet that will solve all of the mismanagement issues of only one species , the holy grail of recreational lobby groups the red snapper.

So let’s take a step back and examine this accusation and assumption that only red snapper needs to be taken out of the MSA , the legacy law that protect fisheries from exploitation and put it into the hands of 5 state directors. The federal management of red snapper is a failure according to the recreational lobby groups ( even though we have a historic allocation 140% times bigger than in 2007 ) and the states can do it better. Can they? The present body responsible for management of EEZ red snapper fisheries is the Gulf Council. Who sit on this council? Who has the most influence over who the members are? The gulf council makes all management decisions about red snapper with approval from the NMFS Regional Administrator and the Secretary of Commerce. This council consist of 17 members and only one , Dr Roy Crabtree represents the NMFS and NOAA as a voting member. All five states commissions have a voting member who is a employee of each state commission to represent them. Then the remaining members ( 11) are all appointed by each STATE GOVERNOR.

Wait a minute , that means each state has total control of the make up of this decision making body and selected each member who will make all the decisions. So how will the states do it better? Don’t the states have to accept some of the responsibility for the accused failures? How with a 5 member voting block and a total control on the entire membership of the council they stand up and blame the federal management when it’s state employees and state appointees who are causing this perceived failed management of the federal fishery? So if the states have the most influence on the present management of federal red snapper fisheries then run it by me again how 5 guys who are state employees are some how going to make it all better? And do it without stakeholder public access and input mandated by RMSA? Did you know in Texas that there is only 1 meeting all year where the public gets 3 minutes to bring up issues? The rest of the time you have to go thru state employees who may or may not run it by the commissioners?

In Florida you have a more open access to the Staff and Ex director and the commissioners. But that access is minuscule in comparison to the week long council meetings where is open public access to each council member during the week of the meeting and the biggest difference is the FWC or any other state commission doesn’t have to answer to most RMSA laws in how they conduct business , manage the resource and respond to stakeholder groups. They can, and have, repeatedly ignored science and biological information when making rules in fishery management. They can when it suits political agendas make up their own rules without any having to respond to influence from , or offer protection to stakeholders in the fishery. This is the extreme danger in state management to professional fishing stakeholders. There is no written state law or state Constitutional law that’s protects individual user groups from arbitrary or unfair action from any commission or commissioner.

The council process is slow but the chances that illegal or arbitrary rules are enacted are made much more difficult by the fact it takes 8-9 votes to pass a amendment , then that amendment has to pass muster at the National level by examination from the Secretary of Commerce and NMFS legal evaluation. None of that scrutiny exist in state management, especially in Florida there are no checks and balances , not even the Governor can over rule a action by the FWCC? He can persuade or pressure his appointees I am sure but by state law the FWC is a stand alone entity specifically designed to have autonomy from the state government officials. Most state commissions enjoy similar self rule.

The gravest concern is in this setting it only take 3 to 4 votes per state to enact fishery laws that can severely harm professional fishing companies, restaurants, and tourism as it impacts the consumer and access to EEZ fisheries for non boat owning anglers. And when such laws are enacted there is no recourse outside of legal litigations which most small companies can not afford. In a nut shell the actions by the state commissions over red snapper and other species has been to make up seasons not based in science or capabilities for their state water fisheries, support lawlessness by not enforcing existing state water boundaries and the subsequent poaching into federal waters and appeasing wealthy special interest interest lobbies. They have abandoned their oath to protect and manage the resource based in science and biology of the species and are more concerned with sending political messages to the NMFS. They have become a servant of political posturing verse providing leadership and sound management ideas and policy. As a result most professional fishing companies have zero faith in the coastal state commissions to Manage any EEZ fishery and will do our best to make sure that this never happens as we fight for our customers right to continue its historical participation in EEZ fisheries and especially red snapper.
Untill next time ……SEE YA!

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