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The Gulf war continues: here's the latest step in splitting the recreational industry.

Arenewed assault on the continuity of recreational fishing in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico is moving forward. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), through its Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC), continues a hell-bent push for the adoption of Sector Separation.

Sector Separation (SS) would splinter the recreational quota allowed each year in Gulf federal waters into separate categories for anglers and another for charter operators. Previously the allowable catch quotas set by federal fishery managers have been divided only between commercial fishermen and recreational anglers, but SS would change that from two to three sectors. It's all part of a greater scheme to enhance the commercial take because under SS rules, charter captains might assign, barter or sell their quotas.

Most in the recreational industry oppose SS. It would leave recreational anglers with a diminished quota, producing a shorter public season that forces anglers to choose between not fishing at all and shelling out for charterboat fees. SS would also create a continual storm of controversy over "who owns the fish" caught on charterboat trips.

The GMFMC, which oversees fisheries in federal waters off Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, recently voted for staff to develop a scoping document for an SS amendment to its management plan.

Capt. Tom Hilton of Freeport, Texas, a frequent contributor to Florida Sportsman's Fishing Forum, perceives NOAA's real motivation. "Sector Separation is all about the conversion of a free public resource and transforming it into a revenue stream," said Hilton. "If you can control the protein source and the recreational access as NOAA is trying to do, it becomes a huge revenue generator. It's already corrupted the management process."

Fishery managers cannot seem to grasp that fishing is done by individuals, not by groups. Adopting Florida Sportsman's position on such matters would be so much simpler and fairer: Equal fishing access for every individual, with no exceptions.


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Author:Kelly, Doug
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2012
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