Politics or Science?

Fisheries management is complex, often beyond the grasp of recreational fishermen. Angler's assessment of a fishery is based upon fishing success. When we catch a lot we tend to believe a species is available in great abundance. However; angling skill, effort, and seasonal patterns are not always equal. One fisherman says best in memory while another cannot find a bite. Resource managers label our assessments "anecdotal" or "effort dependent" prone toward inaccuracy.

On one hand; biologists are better educated and far better equipped. Their sampling gears are not dependent on fishing effort If they're there they catch them. Their data base includes (or should include) historic as well as recent findings. No surprise; their assessment of stock abundance is inherently more accurate than ours.

On yet another hand; when hundreds of thousands of anglers report almost identical findings over several years across a vast expanse of water say the entire Gulf of Mexico the "anecdotal" assessment of stock abundance might be accurate.

Enough beating around the bush... Why are the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration having such a hard time interpreting the present abundance of Gulf red snapper? And Why if recreational anglers so greatly outnumber commercial users, fueling the engines of fisheries research and coastal economies to a much greater degree in their pursuit of red snapper, are they forced to share 51% of the TAC (total allowable catch) with commercial interests?

Texas offshore anglers are facing a red snapper season that could be as short as 11 days this summer and I personally find this absurd.

GMFMC, NMFS and NOAA say red snapper were overfished in the 90s and early 2000s and rebuilding was in order fair enough. But what is fair in their decision to shorten our Texas recreational season to just 11 days with a two fish bag limit?

Of the Gulf states, Texas is unique in that we claim territorial control of Gulf water out to 9 nautical miles and TPWD's assessment of red snapper abundance in territorial water allows a year-round recreational fishery with a bag limit of four fish. TPWD's assessment is based on historic as well as current data. The Feds' assessment is arguably quite dated.

Politics have no place in fisheries management, except perhaps in the minds of special interests and politicians, and that's what is wrong here. When Texas refused to bend to Fed recommendations and reduce the territorial season and bag limit, the Feds lowered the boom... reminiscent of states that would not enforce a ridiculous national 55 mph speed limit having their federal highway funding cutoff.

In this case, I place my trust in the anecdotal assessment and that of TPWD way more than the Feds. Red snapper stocks in territorial waters and beyond are much better than the Feds say, just ask any fisherman. And if a cut must be made, then cut the commercials, not the guys that fund the show!