When it comes to drawing lines in the Gulf of Mexico to help manage red snapper, area fisherman are not ready.
"Not now," was the sentiment of the majority of the 104 fishermen in attendance at a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council scoping meeting at the Destin Community Center Thursday night, a gathering to discuss Reef Fish Amendment 39 - Regional Management of Recreational Red Snapper.
The two-and-a-half hour scoping meeting, which was to report and take comments, was one of about a half dozen to take place throughout the Gulf Coast in the last couple of weeks.
Ryan Rindone, Southeast Data, Assessment and Review Coordinator, with the Gulf of Mexico FMC, presented a power-point on how regional management of red snapper would look in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Regional management would encourage more flexibility in how the recreational quota is managed, and it would enable areas of the Gulf to propose management measures tailored to specific regions," according to the scoping guide. "However, red snapper would remain a federally managed species and federal conservation goals and annual quotas would apply."
There was also discussion as to how the regions would be decided and divided in the Gulf from Texas to Florida. They could be divided into an east and west region; or an east, central and west region; or each state could have its own region.
Once regions were decided, the council would need to allocate the red snapper quota among the regions.
But the biggest question mark from the scoping meeting for the majority of the anglers was what kind of accountability measures would there be?
According to the report, "recreational red snapper will remain under federal control and is subject to season closure when the Gulf-wide quota is reached."
After the presentation, Destin boat Capt. Scott Robson of the Phoenix asked, "what advantage will regional management have? If we all suffer when one goes over what's the advantage? No matter who over fishes, everybody still pays the penalty. Why go through all this process?
"That fish sees no boundary ... I don't know how you can do it," Robson said. "There's a lot of challenges," with trying to regional manage red snapper.
"If you're going to give us a region, remove all that unneeded stuff," said Capt. Jim Green of the New Florida Girl's American Spirit. "The way we're going now ... we're just sinking."
The "unneeded stuff" Green was referring to was the part of Amendment 30B that keeps federally permitted boats from fishing in state waters. He said if they divide us into regions, then there needs to be a clean break — "give us a total number of fish."
"It looks like they are just breaking us up into smaller groups," said Tom Adams, a recreational fisherman from Mexico Beach. "It's divide and conquer." He asked the question as to how many red snapper have to be out there to get a longer season?
The 2013 recreational red snapper in state and federal waters has not yet been set. Currently, in federal waters, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is developing options for the upcoming year which will be examined at their next meeting Feb. 5-8 in Mobile, Ala.
Last year the season went from June 1 to July 10 but then got a reprieve of an additional six days due to bad weather in June. This year there is talk of a 27 day season, June 1-27 with a two fish bag limit, according to Pam Dana of the Gulf Council.
However, in June the stock assessment for the red snapper will be finished and it could add to the number of days.
Capt. Chuck Guilford, of Charisma Charters of Mexico Beach and a fourth generation fisherman, said "there are more out there today than there were in their heyday." He suggested the council study the natural order of the fishery in the Gulf. He said there are so many red snapper out there, that they are eating the baby triggerfish.
Rindone told the group gathered that if the numbers look great on the stock assessments, and that the snapper are starting to rebuild, it is within NMFS to open or close a fishery.
"We hope the stock assessment will add to the TAC (total allowable catch)," Dana said. "Let's wait and see," on the regional management.
Destin's Capt. Brant Kelly of the Relentless asked, "Who's pushing this project?"
Dana said that Louisiana delegation has brought it up to council.
"It's just another layer of bureaucracy," Kelly said.
"You're putting the cart before the horse," said Bob Zales of Panama City. He suggested waiting on the regional management amendment until after the assessment comes in.
"Let's get the information, then decide," Zales said.
"There's a lot to be said about waiting until the assessment," Dana said.
Pam Anderson of Panama City's Capt. Anderson's Marina said, "regional is good if they don't come in and close us down because another state goes over.
"If our state steps up and gives better data ... why not let Florida take the ball and run for it," Anderson said.
Destin's Capt. George Eller of the Checkmate 2 said, "under certain conditions regional management may have some merit ... but at this time there are too many questions. It needs to be tabled, until the assessment comes out. It's not your fault, it just hasn't progressed far enough along yet," he told Rindone.
"I'm totally opposed to the regional management," said Guilford of Mexico Beach. "I'm opposed to any separation ... we are all in this together."