Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gulf of Mexico red snapper mess

Can the impossible become real, and will people read about fishery management? We'll see...

Today's question: why is red snapper in the crapper?

Answer: because nobody's responsible.

To explain: too many people have been killing too many fish, for a long time.

Federal law puts an odd group in charge, the so-called "Fishery Management Councils." These people are mostly fishermen and seafood processors, and they can't decide who has to stop killing fish, so they let everyone keep doing it; this is called "mangement." Red snapper go downhill and fishing economies decline; this is called "a problem" and "troubling." Someone says we don't really know there's a problem and we should wait for a while before we do anything; this is called "dumb." Finally, politcs happen and we limp through to the same crisis next year, and we call it "bad boogie." Some people get grouchy and sign this petition, which is considered rather "cool."

Oh well, now you know why no one is happy, at least among red snapper afishianados. Fishermen can't make a living, fish can't survive long enough to spawn, somebody sells you Northern Pikeminnow for $18 per pound and calls it red snapper even though it tastes like polarfleece, and next year is just a little bit worse. Ouch. It's enough to make a respectable red snapper go into hiding.

If you made it this far, please click out to here and see what life would be like without red snapper, then I'll know you don't have anything better to do. ;) You can tell I don't.


Anonymous said...

You might be interested to know that the red snapper stock is increasing and has been increasing for several years. It is not increasing fast enough to meet artificial but mandated deadlines. This is a very important and mostly overlooked point by those who use red snapper as an example of a "failed" fishery or suggest that somehow the population is
imperiled. Nine million pounds are removed each year by the directed
fishery and the population is increasing. Is that a fishery "in the crapper"?

(emailed to Blogfish, posted by Mark Powell)

Mark Powell said...

Your signs of "success" are questionable. Red snapper are severely depleted, around 3% of historic levels. This is not good news. A marginal increase at a low level is better than a decrease, but hardly a success. As for catching 9 million pounds, that's overfishing and hardly a sign of success. Those fish would be more valuable left in the water as spawners.

OK, now back to the question: are snapper in the crapper? Commercial fishermen couldn't catch their allocation this year, because they had trouble finding fish. Depleted, overfishing, hard to find. To me, that's "snapper in the crapper." Sorry if it's not PC.

BTW, check out for an explanation of lowered standards for success.

Anonymous said...

reef fish amendment 26 recently established an IFQ system for this fishery. although this particular IFQ program has its flaws i (along with most fisheries economists)believe it's a step in the right direction for fisheries management.

i don't disagree that the GOM's red snapper fishery has been severely damaged by passive/non existant management in the past. however, accusing GMFMC of pandering to fishermen is wrong - commercial fisherman almost unianamously opposed a transferable quota system but got one anyway because it's best tool for the job.


Mark Powell said...

Your evidence for non-pandering (your word, not mine) is interesting. There was a referendum on the red snapper IFQ, and fishermen voted to accept the IFQ. At least the most powerful fishermen got to vote. Maybe that's where the pandering occurred, rather than among "all" the fishermen.

Can you cite another example of Council action that was opposed by fishermen but implemented anyway? Other than conservation requirements, that is.

Anonymous said...

I operate a charter boat out of Orange Beach Alabama, we do not have a problem catching red snapper. We take people fishing who would other wise not get to go. I believe in conservation but letting comercial boats harvest 13 inch fish would damage our public reefs and also destroy our breeding stock while allowing the commercial snapper boat, who have an 80% mortality rate to continue destroying any chance of a rebuild stock.