Misinformation Spreads in War of Words Over Gulf Red Snapper Allocation

by / Newsroom Ink on March 23, 2014
Red Snapper

A majority of the snapper ends up on the plates of the more than 56 million residents of the Gulf States, as well as millions upon millions more on the East Coast. Photo: GOMFC

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

Misinformation has spread in both traditional and online media about the current proposed Red Snapper allocation change under consideration by the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.

Krebs_Boston

“I ship approximately 70,000 pounds of Gulf Red Snapper to Canada over the course of a year. Less than five percent of the total catch leaves the country,” said David Krebs, president of Florida’s Ariel Seafood at Seafood Expo North America in Boston. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

The Louisiana Restaurant Association, as well as the four other Gulf State restaurant associations, have come under fire for allegedly playing an integral role in lining up against the recreational fishermen in favor of letting commercial fisherman ship “as much as 80 percent of the commercial red snapper harvest out of the country.

The source of the misinformation has yet to be identified, but it has rapidly spread from Louisiana to Florida to Kansas City to Capitol Hill.

According to a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, fishery trade categories are based on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule for imports and the US Census Bureau ‘Schedule B’ for exports.  Currently there is no specific breakout for Red Snapper due to lack of individual trade data because international exports are so small. As a result Red Snapper trade is listed in the ‘other’ category, not separated out.

Where does Gulf Red Snapper Go?

A majority of Gulf Red Snapper ends up on the plates of the more than 56 million residents of the Gulf States, as well as millions more on the East Coast.

“We are on target to buy more than a million pounds, or twenty percent, of the total Gulf Red Snapper harvest,” said Houston based Sysco Louisiana Seafood chairman Jim Gossen, who sits on the board of the Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI). “We sell 99.5 percent of that to our customers within the state of Texas, and none is shipped overseas.”

States_l

Blue dots represent where 1.6 million pounds of Gulf Wild Red Snapper is shipped in the United States. Gulf Wild and Fish Trax are two organizations that sets standards for genuine, responsibly-caught and safety tested Gulf Red Snapper that is trackable back to the accountable fishermen. Graphic: Gulf Wild

The percentage of Gulf Red Snapper leaving the country is less than five percent, a majority of that going to Montreal and Toronto, which has a craving for the prized Gulf seafood.

“I ship approximately 70,000 pounds of red snapper to Canada over the course of a year,” said GSI’s board member David Krebs, president of Florida’s Ariel Seafood, a Fish Trax member and one of the largest suppliers of snapper out of the country. “Because of transportation restrictions, the fish is mainly enjoyed on the East Coast and Gulf States. Less than five percent of the total catch leaves the country.”

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.

Snapper Couple

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. Photo: Johnny Greene/GSI

Two Alternatives, of seven the Council is considering, on the issue of allocation have become centerpieces in the debate.

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, effectively keeping the current 51/49 percent split.

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, or more than 500,000 pounds.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association, along with the Texas Restaurant Association, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association and the Alabama Restaurant Association, has thrown support for the Gulf Council to adopt Alternative 1 that would keep the current split ratio.  None of the Gulf Restaurant Associations favor taking away any current quote from recreational fishermen.   In addition, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board passed a resolution encouraging the Gulf Council to adopt Alternative 1.

LRA President and CEO, Stan Harris, “ Our organization has been sensitive to the inconsistencies in recreational red snapper management practices and its impact on the recreational and charter segments. Photo:Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

LRA President and CEO, Stan Harris, “ Our organization has been sensitive to the inconsistencies in recreational red snapper management practices and its impact on the recreational and charter segments. Photo:Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“Our organization has been sensitive to the inconsistencies in recreational red snapper management practices and its impact on the recreational and charter segments,” said LRA President and CEO, Stan Harris. “Our testimony before the Gulf Council implored council members to consider that any increase in total catch allocation retain the same 51/49 sector breakdown that currently exists. The LRA is not opposing “the recreational sector” just simply asking for maintaining these historical percentages.”

According to the Gulf Council documents, the recreational sector has exceeded its catch limit six out of the last seven years; with the only year not being exceeded was during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  In addition, the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as the Gulf Council, has continuously failed to provide an accurate count of the recreational harvest.

Unlike the commercial sector, which counts each fish caught, the recreational sector has continuously refused to participate in any type of program that would accurately log the exact numbers caught.

A recent report published by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a D.C. lobbist and advocacy group representing approximately 400,000 saltwater fishermen, stated there are approximately 11 million recreational saltwater fishermen in the U.S. – roughly the population of New York and Los Angeles.  Of those less than a half million are directly represented by any recreational saltwater fishing organization.

Recreational Sidesteps Data Collection

Recreational fishing organizations have refused efforts to accurately record the recreational catch by inferring data collection is already in place.

Federal recreational saltwater fisheries are open access. A fisherman, owing a dingy or a yacht, needs only a license to fish in federal waters; there is no current accountability, or enforcement. Commercial fishermen in the same waters are held to a different standard, accurately monitoring their catch and subject to enforcement.

photo 2

Culinary tourism is a rapidly growing industry for all Gulf States. More than 75 percent of tourists visiting Louisiana alone come for the seafood like this roasted Gulf Red Snapper. Photo: Jim Gossen: GSI

Recreational side monitoring only occurs in state waters where catch times, slot and bag limits are often set.  These state programs are the basis of the claim that recreational catch is being monitored.

Recreational groups have also cited the economic impact of recreational fishermen as a reason for increasing catch limits. Tens of thousands of recreational anglers annually venture into the five Gulf States.

The Gulf States restaurant associations have been charged with protecting the interests of their residents, as well as the of million of visitors venturing into the five Gulf States to dine upon the same species recreational anglers prize.

Culinary tourism is a rapidly growing industry for all Gulf States. According to a recently released report from the Office of Tourism under Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, culinary tourism is one of the fastest growing tourism sectors. More than 75 percent of tourists visiting Louisiana alone come for the seafood.

“They are coming to enjoy not only our unique preparations, but also the great Gulf fish we offer in our restaurants,” said Harris.

The fight over red snapper between the commercial and recreational sector has to stop, but so does the spread of the misinformation. The question remains, how to make it happen?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

About the Author: .

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

8 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Bob Bryant says:

    Is the writer of this credible?
    56 million plates of red snapper at 4oz per plate would be 10 million pounds over the commercial quota and 2 million over the entire allocation.

  2. Capt. Jeff Shoults says:

    In your article you talk about misinformation, you chose not to explain that the quota is now at the 9.12 million lbs. and that the only ratio that would change would be the extra so commercial fisherman wouldn’t have anything taken away from them. You also failed to mention there are less than 300 commercial fisherman in the gulf controlling that 51% of snappers. Also I, as a recreational fisherman just attended a meeting with the FWC where they are proposing a reef fish permit for rec anglers to make us accountable and every rec. angler there was for it with no one against so please don’t say rec fisherman are trying to sidestep data collection we want it the Feds just aren’t willing to take our suggestions or come up with a plan of their own. So please get your story straight if your going to report on this please tell the whole truth. Your article only tells the commercial side. I agree we need to stop arguing over ownership of a natural resource that should belong to all of us not a chosen few, I make my living as a rec. fishing Capt. and have for 30 years and nobody gave me an allocation of the resource for my own to do as I please. Thank you, Capt Jeff Shoults

  3. News Editor says:

    You brought up an interesting point that there are approximately 300 commercial fishermen in the Gulf who control 51@ of the Red Snapper quota to provide fish for 98 percent of the U.S. that does not have access. Currently in the Gulf there is less than 100 oil companies in the Gulf reaping the benefits of providing 100% of the energy to Americans.

    At publication those reef fish permits for recreational anglers are still theory, and recreational fishermen have not proposed any concrete solutions.

  4. News Editor says:

    The information in the article comes from the the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, NOAA,the Louisiana Office of Tourism under Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and NMFS, as well as the U.S. Census.

    If you read the article carefully at no time is it said that there were 54 million plates of red snapper were served. Instead, most red snapper ends up on the plates of the 56 million residents inhabiting the Gulf States (according the the official U.S. Census this is the current population of Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi which comprise the Gulf States), as well as millions more of on the East Coast.

  5. Thomas Hilton says:

    “You brought up an interesting point that there are approximately 300 commercial fishermen in the Gulf who control 51@ of the Red Snapper quota to provide fish for 98 percent of the U.S. that does not have access. Currently in the Gulf there is less than 100 oil companies in the Gulf reaping the benefits of providing 100% of the energy to Americans.”

    Yes, and those oil companies pay millions of dollars in royalties to the nation for the privilege of harvesting our Public Trust Resources. The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper IFQ Program pays NOTHING to the nation.

    Here’s some alarmist misinformation from the http://www.ShareTheGulf.org;

    “Right now, these fishing businesses — mostly small, family-owned operations with a handful of employees — share access to red snapper roughly 50-50 with individual fishermen and the recreational businesses that serve them, like fishing guides and charter captains. But some are working to upset that balance. They are trying to reduce the portion of fish destined for restaurants and grocery stores AND GIVE IT ALL EXCLUSIVELY TO THE RECREATIONAL FISHERY. In other words, if you want to eat red snapper or grouper, you might have to catch it yourself on a boat far offshore.”

    Alarmist propaganda by the enviro-funded profiteers – plain and simple. Share the Gulf? That’s the LAST thing they want to do. It’s time for IFQs to pay their own way and for the fish to be accessed by ALL Americans – not just a few insiders.

  6. Bob Bryant says:

    Ed you mention the 98% of those who do not have access. Are you proposing that 100% of the population eat seafood (we know this to be incorrect as USDA statistics show this is not the case). Do you also assert that only 2% of the population fish? (Again based on the USFWS 5 year survey we also know this to be false).
    Do you know what portion of the total commercial harvest is red snapper (hint…it is less than .05%)
    You also brought up the subject of oil companies (although the analogy is far fetch as I do not know very many recreational oil drillers, but I will run with it).
    Compared to oil companied, who much money in royalties did commercial red snapper fishermen pay to the owners of the resource (I will help you out here…$0.00) compared to the millions of dollars the oil companies paid in leases and royalties…
    I find that your writing to clarify some misinformation is merely a PR piece full of misinformation..
    LA recreational anglers instituted a recreational offshore reef fish permit that is so successful it is being used as a benchmark across the gulf as Anglers themselves take on the challenge of doing what NMFS has refused to do and what Environmental Groups like EDF do not want done or see the need for…
    You mention the permit as theory…yet LA has shown NMFS overestimated red snapper harvest by 71%.
    My work group is working on a similar although more complex (due to the complexities of Florida) data collection system….
    You seem to have the same disdain for these anglers as Share the Gulf, Charter Fisherman’s Association, the LA Restaurant Association and groups like EDF have….
    Could it be that you are just a shill for these groups…
    What are your credentials to take on the task of weeding through misinformation?
    You have access to the same information I do…yet for all your lack of research…I have been able to uncover much….with just a few simple clicks of the mouse at NMFS’ website…
    If you are going to hold yourself up as the sifter of misinformation, it would be nice if you would not simply rehash the same old tired talking points that have already been being used….

  7. Kay Williams says:

    When they come up with recreational numbers on value they use every person that has a fishing license . Now some may live in the same household. Some may never fish. Some may fish in fresh water and some may never catch a red snapper. They do not use a lets say 28 day season, nor do they use just a portion of the expenses that was used to catch a red snapper. They use the full value of their boat . Car. Or truck, their home, their maintance, their charter cost, hotels, eating out, fuel, bait, tackle, ice ,gifts, magazine subscriptions etc. but you get the picture.

    Now they compare that to the price of the fish off the boat to the fisherman to be some where around $3.00 a pound. Not sure where they got that price from. No one can use the data because it is not a fair comparison. How much does the recreational industry pay the government for the free fish they catch. The commercial fishermen pays 3 percent of the sales price while the recreational industry pays zero.

    As far as the programs ,anglers pay nothing for law enforcement or the Coast guard. The 3 percent is to pay the cost difference between the open acess they were under and the cost difference between the two programs. So yes, they do pay a fee. The anglers do not. I realize you will come back and say all the stuff we buy to go fishing produces taxes. Where the commercial industry buys the same items and pay taxes too. Now you track the taxes the fish from the commercial boat all the way from the water to the plate to the consumer and you will see the benefit to the nation in tax dollars.

    Now track the fish from the anglers boat to his plate. How much value does the nation get from the tax dollars they get from the fish he eats. There have been few studies done on the commercial sector other than x vessel price but If they used the same inputs from all commercial fishing as they do all recreational fishing there value would more than double the recreational value.

    I know when I go to a fine restaurant I pay around $25.00 for a 6 ounce piece of red snapper. So you see I was not served a whole 6 pound snapper so one fish sold a lot of $25.00 dinners. The commercial Industry made that possible not the private angler. However the private angler was allowed to feed his family from his fish he got for free. So what are you complaining about? You have yours so leave mine to be caught by a commercial fisherman so our nation will be making new money from a renewable resource. I like to eat fish to and “yes I will pay more “to be able to eat a fish that is not a foreign import. Exactly what happen to the phrase work in the USA, Buy USA to help keep the jobs in the USA”.

    After all you can always move to a foreign country where they have no fishing regulations and catch as mush as you can find to catch. I wish you luck. For some reason there are groups of anglers, “Not All Anglers” that feel they are entitled to as many fish as they want to keep because they bought a boat. Now that boat can be used for many things.

    Yet they feel some sort of Entitlement to a public resource they use for free. These same few anglers do not support a fish tag so that NMFS can actually count the number of fish landed. Why, because if everyone that may not have the opportunity now to go fishing in a 28-40 day season had the ability to go fishing with their tag year round then these anglers that do not support tags can maybe go fishing several times a day every day while the season is open for 28-40 days and catch more than their share should be under a limited resource.

    You need to be a part of the solution instead of trying to take the consumers fish away from them and manage what you have, but instead you want to shoot everyone else down. I myself intend to try and get a pilot tag program started. You seem to have more time than I do so why not help me. You might be able to prove my idea wrong and blame it all on me or if it works than you can say you helped with the solution. I have extended the branch that is all I can do!

    I keep seeing figures thrown out there that we are suppose to believe on economics , yet for the biggest part the National Research Council believe most all of the figures are incorrect when applied to fishery economics . I have shared one I found out of Commerces, I believe may shed some light on recreational value to the Nation. Now remember this is all recreational fishing in the United States.

    To place the study results in context relative to the total income and employment generated in the U.S. in 2006, marine recreational fishing expenditures accounted for less than 0.5% of the total sales, 0.3% of total employment, 0.3% of total income, and 0.4% of total value- added existing in the nation.

    Overall, U.S. fishermen spent over $31 billion, but only about $28 million remained in the country (89%);

    $3.4 million in goods and services were imported into the U.S. in response to angler demands (Table 232).

    The most important durable good purchase, in terms of economic impacts generated in the country, was new boats (Tables 233-236).

    The most important trip impact category was private transportation (i.e., auto fuel). Lodging expenses also generated substantial economic impacts across the country.

    Shore mode fishing in the U.S. generated the highest total sales, value-added, income, and employment

  8. AndyS says:

    As a Gulf Coast resident, there should not be a day in the year a commercial or CFH fisherman should be allowed to catch & retain a Red Snapper that I cannot. It’s commercial fishing that destroys fisheries, not recreational. This has been shown time & time again throughout the world and throughout history. Perhaps we need to have an 11 day season for commercial & year round for recreational? The commercial Snapper industry should beware … there’s a revolution brewing – and we’re done dealing with the corrupt bureaucracy & seeking a political solution from our elected representatives. Recent State non-compliance decisions are just the first shot across the bow.

Top