The Gulf Council Must Act Now to Decrease Bycatch and Save Red Snapper
Gulf of Mexico fisheries are in trouble. A recent stock assessment indicates that red snapper has dropped to 3% of their historic levels (NMFS, 2005). They are not the only species at perilously low levels but, right now, you have a chance to influence policy on red snapper.
The federal fisheries in the Gulf are managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Unfortunately, they are failing to manage our Gulf species in a sustainable way. A big reason they are failing is because they have not adequately addressed bycatch. Bycatch is the accidental take of fish or wildlife when you are targeting something else. Bycatch is often thrown back in the water dead or dying. Bycatch is poorly recorded and then even more poorly incorporated into policy for managing fish.
We have the opportunity to insist the Gulf Council better measure and include bycatch in their management. The Gulf Council is analyzing new alternatives for regulating red snapper and related species that live in the Gulf reef ecosystems. Now is the time for the Gulf Council to address the bycatch that has led to long term red snapper depletion.
If you can participate in a public meeting (schedule below) or send written comments to the Gulf Council (at the email or postal addresses below). Please, ask them to:
The Gulf Council can use policy to reduce bycatch of red snapper by:
We need your help to let the Council know you care about the management options they develop for red snapper. Please write today! Deadline for public comment is March 6, 2006.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
Dear Dr. Leard:
As a citizen of a Gulf State, I am writing to you because I am concerned about the long term health of the Gulf of Mexico fisheries. I understand that the Gulf Council is looking for new management alternatives governing bycatch in red snapper and related species. Please accept this letter as a formal comment to the Shrimp and Reef Fish Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) being considered now.
I urge the Gulf Council to include the most effective approaches to bycatch measurement and reduction in your new policy. Our Gulf fisheries will not be sustainable until we have improved data collection on bycatch and until these bycatch numbers are included in overall management policy.
I urge the Gulf Council to adopt policy to reduce bycatch of red snapper by:
An ecosystem-based approach is important for effective fisheries management. In the past a very fragmented piecemeal approach has been used in red snapper management and it has not been effective, as evidenced by the recent stock assessment information: red snapper are now estimated to be at 3% of historical abundance.
Thank you for your time and attention.
FOR OUR FAMILIES, FOR OUR FUTURE!