This is a briefing paper to aid the individual saltwater fisherman to communicat with elected officials about the changes to the laws that provide the Federal structure and provisions that impact our rights to fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The federal law at issue is the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and M anagement Act. The Act is administered in the Department of Commerce, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Region, Gulf Council. The Gulf Council handles the states of Texas, Louisiana Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
There are currently 17 voting members on the Council. Each of the 5 states has a representative from their versions of our FWC. Plus each state's governor can name 2 people. One from a commercial business and one from recreational. One of our problems starts here because recreation category includes head boat businesses, charter boat businesses and the individual private fisherman. The last 2 members are from the Council staff and the Fisheries staff. Now why does the above structure cause us problems.
My data says the commercial group and the businesses included under the heading of recreational group catch most of the fish. By including the individual fishermen in a group with them means we get subject to the same limits and closures they are given. Our impact on the fisheries do not warrant closures, limits yes. For example the Naples Fishing Club has over 100 members but only about 6 off shore boats, four of which are snow birds. When you factor in weather, other things to do, boat repairs,etc these 6 boat are not making lots of trips off shore. I have the largest boat and in the last 11 years I have averaged 19 trips per year.
Some of the states Governors have named an individual fisherman as one of their two representatives, Florida has not. None of our elected officials in Florida seem bothered that the so called FISHING CAPTIAL OF THE WORLD has no representation for the huge number of individual saltwater fishermen that live in Florida and fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
Use the internet to send messages to our two Senators, your representative and the Governor. Tell them you would like to know if they are going to help with the following efforts. 1) Amend the Law to provide that each state must name an individual fishermen as a voting member of the Gulf Council. 2) That individual private saltwater fishermen will be a separate class for regulatory purposes and will not be subject to closures. But will be subject to catch limits and marine sanctuaries.
PREPARED BY: Ray Russell, President, The Naples Fishing Club