by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor
Meeting at the Capitol in Baton Rogue, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board took a strong stand against the current preferred alternative recommended by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council on Amendment 28; red snapper allocation.
The resolution introduced by David Maginnis, vice president of Houma’s Jensen Tuna, declared the Board’s strong support for Amendment 28, Alternative 1; retaining the existing allocation of 51% for commercial fishermen and 49% recreational anglers, regardless of the total allowable catch.
The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council is currently considering Reef Fish Amendment No. 28, Chapter 2 – Management Alternatives. The amendment alters traditional allocation of red snapper between the commercial fishing industry and recreational fisherman.
Two Alternatives on allocation, of seven before the Council, are have become the center point of discussion. Alternative 1 is based on an aggregate red snapper quota of 11 million pounds; commercial fishermen would be allocated 5.610 million and recreational fishermen 5.390 million.
The Gulf Council has thrown its support behind Alternative 5; shifting allocation percentages to 75% recreational and 25% commercial for aggregate red snapper quota greater than 9.12 million pounds.
Based on an aggregate red snapper quota of 11 million pounds, commercial fishermen would be allocated 5.126 million and recreational 5.874 million, effective reducing commercial share by approximately 8 per cent.
Created in 1981 by the state legislature, the Board is charged with enhancing the public image of commercial fishery, as well as assisting the seafood industry, including commercial fishermen and wholesale and retail dealers. In a unanimous vote, the board supported the resolution requesting the Gulf Council to forgo support of Amendment 5 in favor of Amendment 1.
The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council has historically allocated 51% of the total allowable red snapper catch to the commercial sector and 49% to the recreational sector. As the primary voice for Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry, the board determined the current Gulf Red Snapper allocation a fair and equitable approach.
“I am proud of the Louisiana Seafood Board for taking the position to keep the status quo on Gulf Red Snapper allocation,” said Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Gulf Seafood Institute and owner of New Orleans’ Harlon’s LA Fish. “The board is an important voice in representing every segment of Louisiana’s seafood communities.”
The resolution, seconded by Peter Sclafani, who represents the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the states largest employer, and owns Baton Rouge’s Ruffino’s Restaurant, stated commercial fishermen have responsibly managed within their allocation to ensure the red snapper fishery is sustainable, while recreational fishermen have exceeded their allocation in 14 of the past 22 years.
Louisiana’s commercial finfishermen provide red snapper to restaurants and consumers not having access to the Gulf of Mexico either financially, geographically or both.
“The board today stood united in protecting the interests of our commercial fishermen and the restaurants, retailers and wholesalers that provide for the consumers across the country,” said Maginnis about his resolution. “The recreational sector and commercial need to cooperate together. Before the recreational fishery is allocated additional quota, the sector needs to become accountable.”
According the finfish representative on the Seafood Board, “Recreational anglers have over fished for the last few years. Taking quota away from the commercial sector is not an answer. The Louisiana Seafood Board is here for all of our interest. We need to stand firm on this. Recreational fishermen must be accountable.”
The board, which sits under the office of Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne’ Office of Tourism, implored Governor Bobby Jindal, the Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Robert Barham, as well as the Gulf of Mexico Council to equally and impartially represent the commercial and recreational fishermen of Louisiana by supporting Alternative 1 in which the gap between the allocation to each respective industry is less .22 million pounds difference, compared to Alternative 5’s .75 million.
In a resent speech to the Coastal Conservation Association, an organization which supports giving additional quota to recreational fisherman, Gov. Jindal called for the federal government to return red-snapper fishery management to the states. “For nearly the last decade, area anglers have been hamstrung by tight fishing regulations despite an apparent abundance of the fish,” he said in the speech.
According to Maginnis, “Louisiana does a good job counting the recreational quota on red snapper, something other Gulf States often fail to do.”
During the meeting, the board also voted Andy Gibson as new chairman. He replaces outgoing chair John Folse, who remains on the board. Gibson represents the state’s Shrimp Task Force, and has served on the board since the days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis while it was under the office of the Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.