Monday, September 29, 2014

Meet the Council: Two Newest Members of the Council

Dr. Crabtree swears in the two newest Council members
and Pam Dana renews her vows for her second term.

Members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are responsible for making important decisions for our fishery.  Luckily, the Council is populated with a variety of incredibly knowledgeable people with different perspectives about the resource. The two newest members of the Gulf Council are no exception.

Dr. Greg Stunz is a professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, Texas. He also serves as the Director of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation and Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health at the Harte Research Institute. 

Following his passion for fishing has taken him from the creek banks of the Texas Hill Country where he grew up, all the way to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s hard to imagine that as a small boy this man was squeamish to bait his own hook or fillet his own catch especially since these days he makes a habit of wrangling and satellite tagging large sharks.

When asked to describe his most interesting research Dr. Stunz doesn’t hesitate to describe the work he has been doing with sharks. “Satellite tagging sharks is really exciting for two reasons; first, catching and handling massive predators is thrilling and second, we know very little about sharks relative to other marine species so, it’s wonderful to uncover and share some very fundamental information about the animals and their migration.”

When asked about his favorite research Dr. Stunz points to his projects involving
catch and release mortality of some less dangerous finfish. “I started with spotted seatrout, currently working with red drum, and now continue on to look at red snapper. It’s incredibly interesting to look at the different factors contributing to fishing mortality and hopefully, we can find ways to reduce mortality after a fish is released.”

Although this is his first appointment to the Council, Dr. Stunz is no stranger to fisheries management. He has spent the past 20 years studying marine fisheries and has contributed scientific data for use in both state and federal fisheries management. He has served as a scientific advisor on the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and he is on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission’s Coastal Resources Advisory Committee.

Dr. Stunz says he hopes to “use his scientific expertise to help promote sustainable fisheries in the Gulf.“ He also wants to “ensure access to the fishery to a diverse group of anglers and he looks forward to moving beyond red snapper issues to focus attention on some of the other species that are vitally important to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Captain David Walker, President of Walker Fishing Fleet, has been fishing professionally for 30 years. He started fishing recreationally with his father but, everything changed after his junior year of college when Walker got a summer job on a commercial longline boat and never returned to school. Instead, he opted to build his professional life as a commercial reef fish fisherman and boat captain.

When asked to describe his most memorable fishing trip David doesn’t hesitate to pick one out. “Things use to be different. We didn’t have the convenience of GPS, weather radars, and satellite phones that guide us now, so sometimes we found ourselves in some unpredictable situations. In 1988, I was fishing about 115 miles off-shore, southeast of The Flower Garden Banks and a bit north of the Bay of Campeche, Mexico. I caught the noon weather report on the single side band radio and found out that a storm had developed and was moving rapidly towards us at 21 knots. My boat didn’t run faster that 8 knots so, it was obvious that we weren’t going to be able to out run the storm. So, we did what any fishermen would, we continued to fish. Eventually, we decided to look for some good bottom where the anchor would hold so we could ride out the storm. By chance we happened upon a pipe laying boat and gained their permission to tie up behind them and ride out the storm. We hunkered down behind that boat for 8 hours in 16+ foot seas and 55 mph sustained winds - it was miserable.  However, mid-morning once the storm finally broke and the waves transformed into 12-14 foot soft rolling swells we decided to get back to work. After the worst night I’ve ever had on the boat we were rewarded with the best fishing I’ve ever seen. We fished three oil rigs and caught 5000 pounds of warsaw grouper before nightfall.”

Walker has incredible fishery experience both on and off the water. He got involved with the Gulf Council early in his career, regularly attending meetings and serving on a number of different advisory panels over the years. He has also been very involved with different fishing organizations including; The Gulf of Mexico Shareholders’ Alliance Board, The Gulf Coast Professional Fishermen, Share the Gulf, The Gulf Fisherman’s Association, Organized Seafood Association of Alabama, and Fish for America.

When asked what motivates him to serve as a member of the Gulf Council Walker says “I’ve spent my life connected to the commercial fishing industry and it’s important to make decisions that will keep fishermen fishing for years to come. We’ve come a long way in improving our fisheries and I want to find ways to make the Gulf a better place for all fishermen.”

David recognizes that “red snapper management isn’t working for everyone in the recreational sectors. We need to develop accountable and sustainable solutions that can benefit all people, whether they fish from their own boats, from charter boats, or they’re seafood consumers.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August Council Meeting Preview

Photo: Don Demaria

The Gulf Council will meet next week in Biloxi, Mississippi to work on some important fisheries issues. You’re more then welcome to join us at the meeting or you can listen live from your computer.

We will welcome aboard two new Council members: David Walker, a commercial fishermen from Alabama, and Dr. Greg Stunz, a professor and fisheries scientist from the Hart Research Institute in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The Committee agenda and full Council agenda will help you figure out when the Council plans to discuss the topics that interest you.

Also, don’t forget to join us for public comment on the evening of Wednesday, August 27th from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Below you’ll find a brief description of some highlights the Council plans to address at next weeks meeting:
Photo: Emily Muehlstein

Red Drum
The Council will review a scoping document that considers modifying the harvest closure in federal waters to give recreational anglers offshore access to red drum.

Red Grouper
In April of this year, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that the 2013 red grouper annual catch limit had been exceeded and accountability measures were triggered. This resulted in a reduction in bag limit from four fish to three fish, and the recreational season is scheduled to close September 16 when this year’s annual catch limit is projected to be reached.  At this meeting, the Council will review a framework action that considers changing the current red grouper accountability measures in order to reduce the likelihood of future in-season closures by further reducing the bag limit instead of closing the season early. The framework aso reconsider the structure and timeframe of the current February – March closure beyond the 20-fathom break.

Photo: Mike Jennings
Red Snapper
The Council will take final action on a framework action that considers creating additional accountability measures for the recreational red snapper fishery. A recent court ruling found that National Marine Fisheries Service did not have accountability measures in place that were adequate to stop the recreational harvest of red snapper once the quota is met, so the Council is considering establishing an annual catch target and an overage adjustment. Please watch this short video explanation of the framework and send us your comments online.

Council will continue deliberations on Reef Fish Amendment 40, which considers Recreational Red Snapper Sector Separation. At this meeting, the Council will review the comments received during public hearings and provided online, as well as hear the recommendations from the Red Snapper Advisory Panel. Please watch this video explanation of the amendment and sendus your comments online.

As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April Council Meeting Preview

It’s that time again. The Gulf Council meets next week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to work on some fisheries issues that might interest you.

You’re welcome to join us at the meeting or you can listen from your computer.
The committee agenda and full Council agenda will help you figure out when the Council plans to discuss the topics that you’re interested in.

Don’t forget to join us for public comment, which will be held on Wednesday, April 9, from 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm.

Below you’ll find a brief description of some highlights the Council plans to address at next weeks meeting:

Photo: Emily Muehlstein
·      The Council plans to take final action on Mackerel amendment 20B – which addresses boundaries, season opening dates, and transit provisions for the commercial mackerel fishery.
·      The Council plans to take final action on Framework Amendment 1 that considers increasing the Spanish mackerel annual catch limit. Watch this brief video and send us your comments online.

Red Snapper
Photo: Jason Whitaker
·      The Council will review the legal and policy aspects of allocation, consider the public comments received during public hearings for red snapper allocation, and discuss the final draft of the red snapper allocation amendment. You’re welcome to read the amendment, watch this quick video, read the amendment guide, send us an online comment, or review the comments we’ve received on the issue so far.
·      The Council will also discuss possible modifications to the red snapper individual fishing quota program.
·      The Council will discuss the Texas shrimp closure for 2014 and review a draft of an options paper for Shrimp Amendment 16, which considers adjusting the annual catch limit and accountability measures for royal red shrimp.

For-Hire Fishing
·      The Council will discuss the details of the definition of for-hire fishing.
·      The Council plans to review an options paper for Reef Fish Amendment 40 that considers separating the recreational sector into private and for-hire components.
·      The council will also review a white paper on the Development of a Charter For-hire Electronic Reporting Program.

As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us!