February 15, 2011 4:44 PM , By Gary Jarvis, Captain's Log
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met last week in Gulfport, Miss., and discussed several important management reforms for recreational fishing, including a concept called Sector Separation. Such proposals seek to stabilize struggling charter fishing businesses and increase fishing time for anglers.
Sector Separation would follow scientific and legal suggestions to manage valuable Gulf fish by the groups that catch them: commercial fishermen, charter fishermen and anglers.
Hundreds of charter fishermen have expressed support for the Sector Separation over the last three years.
Existing regulations undefined like short fishing seasons undefined leave very little time to take customers fishing and are killing Gulf charter businesses. The charter for-hire sector needs its own fishery management plan in order to modernize the way they run their businesses. A failing charter fishing industry hurts local economies, families of fishermen, and limits fishing time for anglers.
Currently, charter fishermen and anglers are managed together and share the same pool of fish. By taking responsibility for their own industry through Sector Separation, charter fishermen can improve how they count and report the fish they catch and develop management systems that provide more flexibility for their businesses.
It makes good sense that the different fishing groups would be managed separately, because they each operate very differently. Commercial fishermen provide food to Americans; charter fishermen run tourism-driven businesses that provide anglers the ability to go fishing; and private boat recreational anglers fish on their own for fun.
Charter businesses take millions of anglers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico each year and many customers spend a considerable amount of money to travel, lodge and eat in the area. With charter for hire businesses operating under Sector Separation, recreational anglers will still catch and keep all the fish.
We commend the council for considering Sector Separation. The council should move swiftly to adopt separate sectors for charter fishermen and their recreational anglers in all Gulf fisheries.
Gary Jarvis is a Destin fisherman and president for the Charter Fisherman’s Association, a group of Gulf of Mexico fishermen who want improve the health of the fishery and charter businesses, in order to provide more fishing time for anglers. Visit www.charterfisherman.org for more information.