Fisherman want more days when it comes to red snapper fishing

TINA HARBUCK

More fish days, simplify regulations and sector separation received "very favorable" votes from the 35-plus that attended a workshop on red snapper Tuesday evening at the Destin Community Center.

Members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) were in town Tuesday evening conducting one of five workshops slated from Pensacola to St. Petersburg in the next couple of weeks to discuss how to better manage the harvest of red snapper at the state and federal level while continuing to build the fisheries.

This year, the recreational red snapper season in state waters was 52 days (out to 9 nautical miles), while those permitted to fish in federal waters (9 to 200 miles) were cut back to nine days, the shortest season ever.

"The rate we're fishing right now is OK," said FWC's Martha Bademan, the state and federal voting representative for Florida on the Gulf Council.

However, the main objectives for the workshop were to look at goals for red snapper and how they should be managed.

During the two-and-half-hour meeting, the group made up of mostly charter for-hire fisherman, along with a few private recreational fishermen, was presented nine different options for fishery management.

Bademan went through a slide show of the nine options including everything from sector separation to regional management to fish tags and a one fish bag limit. She presented pros and cons on each option.

Toward the end of the workshop the fisherman were divided into five groups and were asked to come up with what they would like to see happen with red snapper and any ideas to manage the fishery.

After the roundtable discussion, the fisherman had a chance to vote on the nine options, plus a couple of new ones, by clicking in on how they felt about the various options. Their votes were immediately shown in graph form on the power point screen.

Options that ranked "very favorable" in the number of votes were Sector Separation, IFQ Program for Federally-permitted For-hire vessels, Regional Management, Days at Sea, and Fish Tags.

The vote was "very favorable" also for a split season for red snapper as well to simplify regulations and more fishing days.

Items that received "unfavorable" votes were "Inters-Sector Trading" a "reduction in bag limit" and a "weekends only" option.

"Sector separation is going to be vital," said Capt. Tommy Carter Thursday afternoon on the docks. Carter who was in attendance at the workshop said, "I think the state is trying."

Capt. Steve Haeusler who also attended the workshop said he thought it went well, however, he wished more of the charter boat captains would have attended.

"I liked the presentation and the voting at the end," said Capt. Ken Bolden. "The voting gave me an idea what others were thinking."

The take away for Haeusler as well as other captains is that the FWC knows their thoughts on management and hopefully it will be represented to the Gulf Council.

During the next few weeks, results from the workshops will be gathered and presented at the FWC meeting in Kissimmee, FL on Sept. 10-11. The next big meeting for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is Aug. 25-28 in Biloxi, Miss. Final action in regard to how the fishery is managed is possible as early as Oct. 20 when the Gulf Council meets In Mobile, Ala.