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Guest blog by Rep. Garret Graves, Louisiana’s 6th District.
Hunting and fishing is part of life in Louisiana—it’s woven into the fabric of who we are. “Sportsman’s Paradise” is home to the most productive ecosystem in North America. In fact, the entire Gulf of Mexico region is blessed with a rich heritage and an enduring economy built on the bounty of the great outdoors. This area produces up to one-third of the wild seafood harvest in the continental United States and is the top source of shrimp, blue crabs, crawfish, and oysters in the nation. And even in the wake of devastating hurricanes and man-made catastrophes, like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gulf coastal communities continue to survive and succeed, thanks in large part to recreational and commercial fishing activity and the resiliency of our residents.
Natural nor manmade disaster could not cripple the fishing heritage of the Gulf South, but poor federal management of red snapper is taking its toll on this aspect of our fishing culture. Recreational red snapper seasons in federal waters have never been shorter, and management disputes between stakeholder groups at the federally-guided Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council have never been so contentious. At the heart of the problem lies a management regime that is a complete failure and federal government science that fails to paint an accurate picture of the fishery.
Federal fisheries management has been very successful at limiting foreign commercial fishing pressure and curtailing overharvest by America’s commercial fisheries, but it has largely failed to recognize the cultural and economic importance of recreational fishing. That failure has led to the current red snapper quandary in the Gulf, through which recreational seasons are being shortened, because according to NOAA, there are abundant snapper that are too easy to catch.
That’s right. The federal seasons are shorter now than ever before, not because there are so few fish but because there are so many. It makes no sense. It also makes very little sense for NOAA and the Gulf Council to continue to band-aid a fundamentally flawed management approach by pushing efforts to restrict recreational access to public fisheries resources and enact management schemes that a majority of residents across the Gulf have very clearly said they don’t want.
I had the opportunity to fish for red snapper this summer in federal waters less than 12 miles off Louisiana’s coast. At every reef and oil rig we fished we easily caught snapper after snapper. I was lucky to have been in Louisiana during the absurdly-short, 10-day season. Had I been there three days later, I would not have been able to fish those same waters.
I have talked to anglers, tackle and boat dealers, marina owners, and state fisheries managers, as have many of my Gulf Congressional colleagues, about how to remedy perplexing federal management. A straightforward solution they have all recommended is to let state agencies—the folks with long track records of successful management of both recreational and commercial fishing and who are closest to the fishery day in and day out—manage red snapper, as well.
That is why I introduced a bipartisan solution: H.R. 3094, “The Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act.” States are in a position to immediately put into practice management approaches that correct federal missteps and use the best available science and data to conservatively manage this iconic Gulf fish.
This new authority would allow each state to work with anglers and charter captains to tailor fishing seasons and management efforts that work best. If anglers in Louisiana want to fish primarily on weekends, state management could be crafted to fit that. If Florida’s and Texas’s large party boat fleets want to be able to take as many spring break and summer vacation tourists as possible, management can allow that without it having potentially detrimental effects on Louisiana and Mississippi charter operations that take smaller groups throughout the year. And these nuanced approaches can be allowed, while continuing current commercial management, allowing fresh snapper to be served at restaurants across the Gulf.
While federal snapper management continues to push restricted access and contentious, overly-bureaucratic approaches, the states are working to gather better data and increase recreational fishing opportunities by successfully managing for consistent seasons and abundant fisheries. State and regional management approaches have been successfully implemented with the Alaskan salmon, the Dungeness crab on the West Coast, and the Atlantic striped bass on the East Coast. It’s time that the Gulf States were given the chance to succeed at red snapper management, as well.
Today, HR 3094 will be the subject of a House Natural Resources Subcommittee Hearing. This is an opportunity to harness the Gulf State agencies’ expertise to improve access for the enormous recreational fishing community in South Louisiana and the Gulf South, while sustainably managing our fisheries. I’m looking forward to the chance to explain how we can adopt a species management model that is sustainable and fair.
The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress.
The Senate will be in session Monday through Friday. The House will begin legislative business on Tuesday.
House members return to D.C. after last week’s recess to find the chamber in the same state they left it—yep, that would be chaotic. Potential Republican candidates for Speaker are holding their breath as they wait for Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to decide if he should throw his hat into the ring. The latest intel from Capitol Hill indicates that if Ryan does run, he will do so only with the unanimous support of the Republican caucus, something he is unlikely to achieve. Should Ryan decline to run, it would kick off a free-for-all fight for the Speaker’s gavel, with no obvious leader emerging.
In the meantime, Congress is facing expiration of the Highway Trust Fund (October 29), the debt limit (November 3), and the short-term funding agreement keeping the government afloat (December 11). Speaker Boehner, with an apparently willing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, seems poised to attempt to address these issues in the remaining days at the helm of the House, which will consider three piece of legislation on the floor this week, including Rep. McClintock’s (R-CA) H.R. 692 bill to prevents a default in the debt limit.
Shifting to legislation that has already been allowed to expire: The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) may be in limbo, but it continues to influence major policy issues. Senator Hoeven (R-ND) has proposed connecting the reauthorization and full funding of LWCF with the lifting of the crude oil export ban, while Senators Burr (R-NC) and Ayotte (R-NH) have placed a hold on Senate consideration of the TOSCA reform bill in an attempt to get a floor vote on an LWCF reauthorization amendment. At least it’ll be worth watching the Hill between now and Thanksgiving.
What We’re Tracking:
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Nominations for key decision-making positions in DOI and energy, to be discussed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
EPA regulations, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight hearing
Opportunities for Good Samaritan mine cleanups, to be considered in a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hearing. Learn about the existing red tape for well-meaning groups that would like to take on mine cleanups, here.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Gulf Coast red snapper management, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing regarding H.R. 3094
Ozone standards, in a House Science, Space and Technology hearing
Wastewater treatment, in a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy hearing regarding Senator Roger’s (R-MS) S. 611
Brian Grossenbacher is a Bozeman, Montana fishing guide and professional photographer whose work has appeared in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and Saltwater Sportsman. He also shoots commercial campaigns for Orvis, Simms, Mossy Oak, Shimano, and Costa. Basically everything that you love to wear while you’re in the field, he’s the guy behind the camera making it look good, and everywhere you’ve ever dreamed of going to hunt or fish, Brian’s been there on assignment. I managed to catch him between a grouse hunt in the Yaak Valley and a shoot in Mexico to talk about the importance of public lands.
TRCP: So, Brian, what makes you #publiclandsproud?
BG: You know, I just came back from a shoot in northwest Montana, where we never stepped off public lands in three days. It was amazing! We hunted blue grouse, spruce grouse, and ruffed grouse on the most beautiful remote terrain, and our toughest decision each day was ‘Do we turn right or left?’ That kind of access makes you feel like you’re in Alaska. I truly believe that improving access to public lands, and promoting the resources that we have, will only encourage communities to fight to maintain that habitat for generations to come.
It’s worth adding that a lot of my photography work is done on public lands, so I owe a huge debt to having access to beautiful places that make hunting and fishing possible.
TRCP: Have you always had a connection to public lands?
BG: Well, it used to be my living—for 18 years I was a flyfishing guide and I spent 90 percent of my time guiding on public waters. The Yellowstone, Madison, Jefferson, and Upper Missouri became my office. And I once worked as an events coordinator for Bridger Bowl, a non-profit ski area that’s entirely on National Forest land. It’s a pretty unique place and a true collaboration between the Forest Service and local community that has thrived for more than 70 years.
TRCP: What will you be looking for in a winning photo?
BG: Of course, lighting is key, composition is important, but photography should pull the viewer in to experience the scene, just the way that the subject of the photo is. I find that the best photos I’ve taken come from being able to disappear into the background on a shoot. The more a subject forgets that I’m there, the more their humor comes out or they’re better able to concentrate on the task at hand and more genuine moments emerge. In an upland hunting situation, things happen very quickly, so a photographer has to have 100 percent of his senses in the next moment. I’d just recommend that you never rest. Never set the camera down. The moments I capture after the hunt, in little local bars, or after the fish is landed, tend to be just as interesting.
Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog, or win a new pair of Costa sunglasses.
Thanks again to everyone out there using the hashtag and transporting us to all the gorgeous places you’ve experienced on public lands for the latest round of our contest devoted to photos of beautiful scenery. Our guest judge Johnny LeCoq, founder of Fishpond and a pretty awesome photographer himself, considered all your shots of craggy landscapes and scenic vistas and selected a winner who will receive a brand new pair of Costa sunglasses—all the better to see with, as he frames up his next shot—and a Fishpond Summit Sling pack where he can stash photography AND fishing gear. Not too shabby.
And the winner is…
Eric Fisher (yep, that’s his real name) from Washington, D.C. with his “waterscape” image of Kokanee salmon swimming up Taylor Creek near Lake Tahoe, California! Fisher is an amateur photographer who grew up hunting, fishing, and camping, and says he’s never without his camera (or a fly rod.) He hopes to capture his enthusiasm for the outdoors and all of the beauty nature has to offer through his photos. Well, our judge was captivated by this shot, which proves that an unconventional angle can really change the scene. Way to go, Eric!
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More