Reallocation of Red Snapper Means More Fish, For Every Sector
The type of food I eat is a priority to me. Where it comes from, if it was treated with pesticides, hormones or antibiotics, and if it’s a sustainable food source. You see, I grew up in West Virginia – where grocery stores are more aisle than edge. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver started his international Food Revolution in the state’s second largest city, Huntington, because it was deemed America’s fattest city. So as an urban-dwelling adult, I personally relish the availability of organic produce, grass-fed beef, and everything else that is anti-screwed with.
As for fish, I rarely shop at the seafood counter or entertain the fish choices on restaurant menus. Unscrupulous food labeling makes me squeamish as to what I’m truly buying (read what Consumer Reports says about that here). I trust getting on a boat, with rod and reel in hand, and catching my own.
I’m a recreational fisherman – the ultimate locavore.
That’s why I was dismayed by a recent letter by Carol Dover published in the Tampa Tribune. Her commercial industry-insider plea for the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council to reject Amendment 28, which would reallocate the catch limit percentages for both the commercial and recreational fishing industries, stands against a food movement in this country that reaches from farmers markets to CSAs to raising your own chickens. But fishing – well, we can’t have the public doing that, now can we?
Ms. Dover’s assertion is that American consumers would be short-changed by reallocating the harvest amounts that are split by the commercial and recreational sectors. But that’s simply not true. And the reason is that the total number of pounds to be divvied up has risen since last year. By balancing the percentages, Ms. Dover is correct in one point – recreational fishermen will be able to catch and keep almost 400,000 more pounds per season. The truth she neglects to reveal, however, is that the commercial take also increases, and significantly – by nearly 1.4 million pounds.
I’m fully aware that the majority of Americans aren’t able to go fishing for red snapper in the Gulf. But the argument that a few more fishermen who go out on their boat or hire a charter captain, and take their family to have a great experience and put a fresh filet on the grill that night, as opposed to choosing it from a pile of fish laying on shaved ice, is going to deny the American seafood-eating public from enjoying red snapper just doesn’t add up.
I can only hope that more people take their desire for local, sustainable food to the open water. But unless Amendment 28 passes, the opportunity barely exists when it comes to Gulf red snapper.