Feds want to open season on catching mature red drum

Feds want to open season on catching mature red drum

The good news is that the number of domestic fish stocks listed as overfished or subject to overfishing has dropped to a low not seen since 1997, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. 

A recent NMFS report highlights the United States’ continued progress towards sustainably managing fish stocks.

Six stocks — snowy grouper on the southern Atlantic coast; North Atlantic albacore; haddock in the Gulf of Maine; gag grouper in the South Atlantic; the Jacks complex in the Gulf of Mexico; and Bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic — were removed from the overfishing list. Two stocks were no longer listed as overfished: gag grouper in the Gulf of Mexico, and North Atlantic albacore, which was removed from both lists.

And now the bad news – the feds have set their sights on catching and killing 30,000 pounds of mature red drum.

It’s a fact that the federal government’s management of Gulf fisheries has created some of the most chaotic, dysfunctional and unsatisfactory fisheries in the country, and now it seems that the agency is set on bringing that same experience to our red drum fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA Fisheries is currently seeking comment on a two-year plan to allow harvest of breeding-size red drum in federal waters for the first time in decades. Through the use of an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP), a tool that has been intentionally misused repeatedly to circumvent regular management procedures and skirt public opinion, Mississippi for-hire vessels would be allowed to target 30,000 pounds of over-sized red drum to collect “scientific data” on the stock.

Representing this EFP as a science tool is grossly misleading and inaccurate, according to the Coastal Conservation Association.

Very clear scientific goals were established at the Red Drum Data Needs workshop in July 2014 – none of which are addressed by this proposal. That workshop, requested by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, determined that “Fishery Dependent” data (such as data collected by fishermen and data that would be collected by this EFP) were already more than adequately represented for each state.

That same workshop determined that what is needed are “Fishery Independent Data” collected by scientists. Large purse seine studies sampling 10-20 fish from different schools are ongoing from Florida to Louisiana by universities and marine institutes. Those studies will provide vastly more useful information for a much more geographically broad and comprehensive assessment.

This red drum EFP will add nothing to further knowledge of the red drum stock, as shown by the Gulf Council’s own red drum data workshop, according to the CCA. At best, it would be duplicative and unnecessary. There is simply no scientific justification for this EFP, and it should be rejected. The entire Exempted Fishing Permit concept should be overhauled to require genuine scientific oversight to prevent willful misuse. Anyone who has watched the manipulation of the red snapper fishery the past few years should be extremely alarmed at the implications of this federal overreach into one of the great state-based marine conservation victories. The EFP is limited to Mississippi’s for-hire industry today, but it is certain to spread rapidly to other states if it is approved.

Caught on Facebook

A Tyler County game warden received information that an individual shot a deer from a major highway in Tyler County. While viewing the alleged poacher’s Facebook page, the warden saw an image of a whitetail buck with no tag displayed in one of the individual’s photos. The warden went to interview a potential witness in the Angelina County jail. While there, the warden noticed the alleged road hunter was also being booked in jail. After interviewing the witness and suspect, the warden obtained a confession. In addition to killing the deer depicted on his Facebook profile, the man also had no hunting license at the time of the crime.

Poaching yes, but no trespassing

A Comal County game warden received a call from a homeowner at Canyon Lake claiming he found a deer carcass that appeared to have been shot in his yard. Upon investigation, the warden concluded the deer had been shot and observed, as well, a significant blood trail. The warden followed the blood trail back through three residential lots to an adjoining home, where he noticed someone had been baiting deer with corn. Two occupants of the house denied any knowledge of anyone shooting a deer. The warden then called for assistance in gathering evidence and additional statements. During the investigation, both men were steadfast in denying any involvement until it became apparent the evidence pointed to the contrary. One of the men finally confessed, telling the wardens, “I can’t lie to you guys anymore!” He then recounted the story of how he had shot the deer with a crossbow, and the reason he didn’t retrieve the deer was because he did not want to trespass on someone else’s property.