Members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are likely to hear from recreational fishermen tonight at a meeting in Naples. The council will take public testimony on several proposals—including one aimed at reducing the recreational catch of red grouper. The quota for that catch in the Gulf is 1 and a quarter million pounds. But, according to federal officials, anglers caught more than 3 million pounds of red grouper in 2004. What’s under consideration are rules to lower bag limits and close the recreational, shallow-water grouper season in October, November, and December. That’s a busy time for fishing tourism. Stu Kennedy is a fisheries biologist with the Gulf Council.
“It certainly has drawn ire. Part of it is because people don’t believe that the recreational harvest numbers are as high as they were… and others because they believe that the commercial fishery takes more than they should be allowed to take. And therefore they shouldn’t get as much and they should get more. The recreational side doesn’t want these regulations. At least that’s the core of the argument.”
Last week, state officials dealt a blow to the federal proposals. Members of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to oppose the three-month closed season. But, federal officials say—under something called the Magnuson act—they’re obligated to protect the red grouper population. The meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council starts tonight, 6 o’clock, at the Naples Hilton on Highway 41.
Tuesday, 28 June 2005 01:00