The Red Snapper Controversy
I CAUGHT ANOTHER RED SNAPPER AND STILL CAN'T KEEP IT!
In early 2007, the fisherman in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas were extremely angry at a federal ban that was imposed on fishing for red snapper. In addition to that federal agencies also proposed to close a huge area to all fishing activities.
This federal program turned a handful of fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico into the lords of the sea, while thousands of other fishermen were left with limited rights to catch only a dozen fish. These lords of the sea were able to earn millions every year without even going fishing and transformed hundreds of other fishermen into modern-day serfs who had to first pay to the lords and get the right to harvest red snapper.
The federal program known as Individual Fishing Quota system, or IFQ, has unfairly concentrated the lion's share of the commercial red snapper harvest to a select few. What the National Marine Fisheries Service did was divide up the Gulf's snapper harvest like a pie, and gave away the largest pieces to the fishermen who landed the most fish in the years that preceded this program.
Through this federal program, a handful of red snapper fishermen received as large as 6% percent of the Gulf's total harvest, while hundreds of other fishermen received shares that were as small as a ten thousandth of a percent and this also limited their right to catch red snapper, bringing it down to a dozen fish a year.
Presently there are over 3 million saltwater fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico, and red snapper is the most popular and sought-after sport fish in the federal waters of the Gulf. Although the red snapper population in the Gulf is healthier than it has ever been in decades, federal fisheries managers have continued to reduce the recreational fishing seasons, which has resulted in a fishing season that spanned 9 days in 2016.
This has raised many eyebrows and catch limits have come into question. The Gulf red snapper fishery up to 3 or 9 miles off the coast are all managed by the state fish agency and the territory of state waters vary. Florida and Texas have jurisdiction out to 9 miles, whereas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana control out to 3 miles. Up to 200 miles off the coast is officially managed by the federal government through its marine fisheries agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
These new rules also caused a major blow to coastal communities, especially those located around the Southeast, including St. Augustine, whose fishermen depend entirely on recreational fishing.
The handful of fishermen who are called the lords of the sea have earned roughly $60 million since 2007, even when their boats never left the port. This money is not something that they from their own labor, instead it was collected from the labor of hundreds of fishermen who had no choice but to give back more than half of the price that their catch had brought them.
Almost a decade later, the right to catch 77% of the annual red snapper harvest is still controlled by approximately 55 people, according to a detailed analysis of hundreds reports, federal documents and websites, conducted by AL.com.
These 55 fishermen have earned tremendous amounts of money every month, even when they haven't worked a single day. All they do is just sit back and take advantage of the fact that they have been gifted this public resource.
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