Captain Michael Miglini , Port Aransas Texas
Welcome to the end of the shortest-ever red snapper season for recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. It came and went in just 48 days. Now, tourists and local fishing enthusiasts will have to wait until next June to catch and bring in one of the most popular offshore fish the Gulf has to offer. Fishing business owners that run charters and head boats, will now have to try to make ends meet by selling trips for less popular offshore fish or inshore fish, or finding other work. As a charter/head boat owner, the upcoming year looks bleak for me and my peers.
Tourism is at the heart of our economy in this region, and our world-class fishing is one of the biggest draws we offer. So why do we stand for fishing rules that have shortened red snapper fishing to a fraction of the tourist season? It doesn’t make sense.
We got to this point because offshore fishing has become very popular. But the problem isn’t the popularity of fishing – that’s a good thing! - it’s that the old rules haven’t kept up. The sport has outgrown the fishing rules set up to ensure there are enough fish in the sea to reproduce for next year. Now, because so many people go out fishing for red snapper, the rules dictate that the seasons must shrink to ensure we stay within a sustainable limit of fish.
The hard truth is that without changes to fishing rules, our future will be full of shorter and shorter offshore snapper seasons, and perhaps even no seasons at all.
All businesses in our area can agree that having more flexibility in the fishing season is a positive thing. Being able to tout red snapper fishing trips to spring breakers, winter snowbirds and other visitors would add to the year-round tourism appeal of our coasts. Within the fishing industry, it’s well accepted that the season is too short, that we need more fishing flexibility and that we need to improve fishery science. So what are our options?
I represent the Charter Fisherman’s Association, a group of fishermen throughout the Gulf of Mexico that works to improve the health of the fishery and charter businesses in order to provide more fishing time for anglers. We know that our industry is in a downward spiral and that we have to change the way things are managed.
To do that, we believe in working directly with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council – which makes the offshore fishing rules – to test out solutions with voluntary pilot projects. This is a safe way to try out new management and see what works before putting all of our eggs in one basket.
We’re specifically interested in exploring programs that give fishermen the flexibility to fish throughout the year. We realize in order to do this we will need to be responsible for staying within safe fishing limits and count and report the fish we catch and discard in order to improve the science too. To us, it seems the added flexibility to provide recreational fishing access when and how anglers want it is going to be worth the extra effort and reporting we need to do for this privilege. The Council is currently discussing two options which fit this bill: a voluntary individual fishing quota pilot program for head boats and a days-at-sea pilot program for charter boats. Both programs would improve flexibility, keep fishing within its limits and improve fishery science.
Not everyone agrees with us, and that’s ok, as long as we can all work together toward a solution that will benefit our businesses, our fishery and our communities. There is a lot at stake and constructive collaboration is necessary to restore and protect our long fishing heritage.
Whether you’re a fisherman, a business owner or a local community leader, you can help. Reach out to me at email@example.com to learn more.
Mike Miglini is a USCG licensed master captain and charter/headboat operator in Port Aransas, TX. His company Out to Sea Adventures runs fishing, spearfishing and SCUBA diving trips booked either by the individual passenger or booked by the whole boat for private groups. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org (361) 288-2723 for more information.