October 25, 2016
Truth about “angler partnerships being key to Gulf red snapper recovery”
By: Capt. Bob Zales, II, President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators and a lifelong charter boat, commercial, and recreational fisherman.
In a recent story published by AL.com on 10-24-16, http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/10/angler_partnerships_key_to_gul.html , Robert Jones, Director of Environmental Defense Fund’s Gulf of Mexico oceans program, paints a skewed and misleading picture of the involvement of EDF in our Nation’s fishery resources and their cancerous impact on privatizing our natural marine resources. I present the truth of the matter here and provide links to other stories for you to research and form your own opinion of what EDF has done, how they have conspired for many years to privatize our marine resources, and how they have gained much influence with the federal Department of Commerce, specifically the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to institute their objective.
My family and I have been in the fishing business in Panama City, FL since 1965 and I have been active in fishery management since the late 80s. My involvement has been as a member and officer in several local and national associations, serving on multiple advisory panels on the local, state, and national level, and speaking at many conferences providing insight and advice on fishery management.
Let’s back up to the late 90s and early 2000s. EDF staff began showing up at Gulf Council meetings in the late 90s along with other enviro groups. Their numbers in attendance have multiplied over the years. An EDF staffer, Pam Baker, contacted several Gulf charter boat association leaders in the early 2000s and requested individual meetings to discuss privatizing the recreational fishery. She advocated forming local community boards that would apply for local recreational fishing quotas to be shared out to anglers in plans developed by the local boards. Each fishing community would receive a share of the total quota and then the local board would determine who was able to harvest red snapper and who would not, decide if and how much of a fee would be paid to be able to harvest red snapper, and so on. Every one of us who met with Pam Baker completely rejected the concept as recreational fishing depends on access to the fishery in order to have an opportunity to harvest fish.
EDF convinced some of the commercial red snapper fishermen to support IFQs in their fishery. When Mr. Jones states that “commercial fishermen voted twice, in supermajorities, to implement a system known as catch shares or individual fishing quotas” he does not tell the truth. The fact is the NMFS weighted the referendum vote based on the amount of red snapper harvested by the high liner commercial fishermen leaving those commercial fishermen with low harvest unable to vote. This is why the referendum was approved. In addition, when Mr. Jones talks of a 6% cap of ownership of the commercial red snapper quota he is correct. BUT, nothing prevents one family or multiple corporations from owning several quotas of 6%. In other words let’s say a family of 15, husband, wife, siblings, wives, husbands all decide to purchase red snapper quota and go for 6%. In essence one family could own and control the entire red snapper commercial quota. Seem farfetched, just look at the East coast scallop fishery.
EDF has recruited some charter boat owners and funds their charter boat association in order to make people believe it is an independent group. They have done the same with several commercial groups in the Gulf and other coasts. EDF uses these puppet associations to further their cause to institute catch shares/IFQs into all fisheries.
Mr. Jones states he is a lifelong recreational fisherman. Pretty much everyone, including most commercial fishermen, are recreational fishermen at some point. Recreational fishing is a national past time and even exceeds golf as recreation. If EDF has their way with the catch share cancer they advocate to privatize all fishing to eliminate access and opportunity anglers may have to resort to golf or other forms of recreation in order to seek relaxation from every day stresses.
Mr. Jones states catch shares/IFQs/privatized resources are responsible for the Gulf red snapper recovery. Again, far from the truth. Red snapper became managed in the early 80s with various programs and measures. All have worked to some degree. The increase in offshore oil platforms and artificial reef programs are largely responsible due to the increase in habitat. The large reduction of the shrimp fleet due to imports and increased fuel costs in the 90s helped reduce bycatch mortality of juvenile red snapper. Extended red snapper seasonal closures, in many cases for over 10 to 11 months left the fishery untouched. Check the science, in every year since red snapper has been managed the stock biomass has increased regardless of any quota over runs by commercial and recreational sectors, environmental impacts, or any other perceived damaging impact. It has never been stagnant or reduced. Mother Nature is also a key impact on the red snapper recovery.
Mr. Jones, on behalf of EDF, would lead you to believe that EDF is only here to “help” that they have no fish in the pond. Again, another untruth. EDF has pushed their catch share/IFQ/privatized cancer for multiple years. Much like the Islamic terrorists that patiently work to instill their harm on the world, EDF has patiently pursued the cancerous privatization of our public fishery resources for more than a decade.
Dave Festa is a Senior VP with EDF. He made a presentation at a Milken Institute Conference on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 http://www.milkeninstitute.org/events/conferences/global-conference/2009/panel-detail/1599 . This conference was titled “Innovative Funding for Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans” and included several key speakers advocating for investments in fishery catch share/IFQ programs for the sole purpose of investing, much like the stock market. This concept has been advocated by EDF for many years as can be seen in the research by Ben Raines, who reports for AL.com and who has done much research on the connection between EDF, a small group of now wealthy commercial red snapper quota owners and the NMFS. Read his most recent story http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index.ssf/2016/10/edf_how_a_rogue_environmental.html. Ben’s research shows that 55 individuals own 77% of the red snapper commercial quota which was once fished by over a 1,000 commercial fishermen.
Mr. Jones suggests that privatized recreational fisheries will solve the Gulf red snapper problem and restore the resource. This is as far from the truth as we are from Mars. Currently the folks at EDF/NMFS and the Gulf Council are actively pushing catch shares/IFQS/privatized fishery resources on you, the public. The EDF cancer has spread far and wide and through false and misleading articles such as the one by Mr. Jones it is taking hold. Imagine, the red snapper fishery managed solely by a harvest tag, a form of IFQ. All recreational red snapper quota is divided up into numbers or pounds of fish. The tags are put up for sale by the EDF controlled NMFS and you can purchase your tag at your local Walmart, a major EDF financial supporter. Let’s say Dave Festa and Mr. Jones pool their unearned income and buy up a large number of tags. They then put them on a pre arranged fish tag web site for sale to the highest bidder. Your red snapper public resource just became a privatized entity marketable on the web. Your access and opportunity to the fishery just ended unless you are able to compete with wealthy individuals who only purchase tags for financial gain. Sounds a little like trying to buy rock and roll concert tickets through ticket master doesn’t it. This scenario is not far away.
Fortunately this EDF cancerous program can be stopped before it is implemented and before you lose the ability to freely fish for red snapper and other species in the future. The cure to this cancer is YOU! You can contact the Gulf Council and the folks at EDF/NMFS and tell them you do not want fish tags or catch shares/IFQs in any form. You want access and opportunity to our fishery resources and do not want to participate in a fishery quota market place.
Do the research on EDF, their catch share/IFQ/privatized fishery resource cancer, the players involved and you will find much interesting information on who is working to eliminate recreational fishing as you have known it.