Sportfishing Industry Voices Deep Concern over a New Louisiana Red Snapper Proposal
A controversial two-year pilot program could lead to a private recreational limited access program for red snapper
Alexandria, VA – May 26, 2017 – The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recently announced a controversial two-year pilot program for Gulf of Mexico red snapper management. Expected to begin in 2018, the program will allow 150 randomly-selected offshore anglers in the state access to 25,000 pounds of Gulf of Mexico red snapper. These anglers must agree to take part in a mandatory reporting program via smartphones in order to participate in the pilot program.
In response, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the trade association that represents the sportfishing industry, released the following statement from Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director.
While ASA has long advocated for expanded consideration of angler-provided harvest data through new technology like smartphones, we are deeply concerned with the long-term ramifications of the pilot program that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries unveiled on May 25, to the surprise of the entire recreational fishing community.
This pilot program is obviously the first step toward creating a harvest tag program for red snapper. ASA and several other organizations recently completed an extensive project working with anglers and industry members throughout the Gulf region to explore alternative management options for Gulf red snapper, including harvest tags.
While ASA is not opposed to harvest tags as a fisheries management tool under unique circumstances, among the many problems with applying this approach to Gulf red snapper is one of simple arithmetic. According to NOAA Fisheries, approximately 422,000 private recreational red snapper tags would be available Gulf-wide based on recent data. While no accurate estimate currently exists for the total number of Gulf reef fish anglers, it’s extremely likely that there are more Gulf reef fish anglers than available tags. Therefore, if harvest tags were implemented Gulf-wide, anglers would probably be lucky to receive a single tag for the entire year.
While the 150 anglers who will be selected to participate in Louisiana’s pilot program will be gifted considerable access to red snapper, implementing a similar system on a larger scale would require significantly limiting either the number of tags available per angler or the number of participating anglers. Neither is a positive management outcome.
What is most unfortunate about this proposal is the secretive way it was developed and released by state officials. For a state that hails itself as a ‘Sportsman’s Paradise,’ we would hope the state would work with its recreational fishing community to cooperatively develop legitimate management approaches, and not attempt to force upon anglers a non-viable and controversial management approach that they strongly oppose.
More information about the Louisiana pilot program can be found here.