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Sportfishing Industry Strongly Opposes Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Sector Separation Action

American Sportfishing Association (ASA)
The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is strongly opposed to sector separation and is deeply troubled that this poorly conceived and detrimental plan was passed by the Gulf Council. In its 2013 position paper on sector separation, ASA urged federal fishery managers to remove saltwater recreational sector separation from all management plan discussions. ASA believes that sector separation will create serious conflicts between private anglers and charter/for-hire captains, and further diminish recreational fishing opportunities for red snapper.

"While we understand the charter/for-hire position, we in the tackle industry donít see Amendment 40 as being in the best interests of the entire recreational fishing community," said Gary Zurn, Big Rock Sports SVP Industry Relations. "The economic impacts of sector separation have not been clearly determined, but we know it will have a significant financial impact on the coastal communities and businesses throughout the Gulf region that support recreational fishing."

Earlier this year, a landmark report produced by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management presented a new paradigm for conserving marine fishing resources while producing the full range of saltwater recreational fishingís economic, social and conservation benefits. A Vision for Managing Americaís Saltwater Recreational Fisheries outlines the nationís most important recreational fisheries management issues and is intended to help guide federal policy decisions.

"The reason Maverick Boats President Scott Deal and I initiated the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management was because we were concerned about the increasing number of saltwater fisheries management decisions that are limiting anglersí ability to enjoy time on the water," said Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO John Morris and the commissionís co-chair along with Deal. "We need everyone involved in saltwater fisheries management, including that of Gulf red snapper, to come together and collectively work to realize the commissionís vision."

"The commissionís vision for managing our nationís saltwater fisheries is based on conservation, economics and public access," said Deal. "The idea of sector separation is in direct contrast with the commissionís vision. This move is not based in sound science or good economics. It is an effort to band aid a poor federal fisheries management system needing major surgery."

A small glimmer of hope for the future of recreational management of Gulf red snapper was provided by a last minute attachment to Amendment 40 that requires a three year "sunset," which means that unless the Council takes action to continue sector separation it will expire after three years. This provision was introduced into the discussion once it became evident that the permanent sector separation proposal had the votes within the Council for passage.

While sector separation is now scheduled to go into effect for up to the next three years, the sunset provision stops any forward movement on bringing catch shares into the temporarily separated recreational sectors and prevents a permanent implementation strategy.

In addition, the five Gulf states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida) agreed on a path forward for regional management (formally known as Amendment 39) that would give each state control over the recreational fishery off their coast, in both state and federal waters, in a way that better meets the needs of the recreational fishing community.

"The most important and valuable action at the Council level for the sportfishing industry is to support the statesí efforts to develop a regional management plan as quickly as possible and to help ensure that it be implemented prior to the sunset of sector separation," said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman.

The statesí big stumbling block was how to divide the allowable catch among the states. However, the states agreed to an allocation formula during the meeting, as well as a timing strategy for implementation. This gives the Gulf states a strong incentive to agree upon a regional management structure by the time sector separation expires.