It's time to say no to loopholes, and yes to responsible, science-based fisheries management.
I have owned and run Port Mansfield's Getaway Adventures Lodge for the last fifteen years, and I've guided here longer than that. I grew up tossing shrimp off the Bolivar Peninsula for migrating flounder; I threw artificial lures in Arroyo City for monster trout and redfish and chased every other species for more than 60 years.
Some fishermen, recreational fishermen especially, think all the big blue water of the Gulf of Mexico and other coastal waters hold an infinite supply of fresh fish and fresh shrimp. That's simply not true. The fishable water gets smaller and smaller as boats get faster and faster and equipment gets more efficient. Everyone wants a piece of the ever-shrinking Gulf.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. This act makes sure there are fish to share. But, even better, the act ensures fair access not only for this generation, but also for my grandkids and great-grandkids—and yours.
I've witnessed the good that regulations can do. We are finally beginning to see the successes that accompany responsible, science-based fisheries management. It's working, but there are those in the fishing community who want to reverse our progress; erasing all the hard work and sacrifices we all have had to make. They are asking Congress to draft loopholes in the Magnuson-Stevens Act to circumvent the very measures that are showing success and saving our coastal economies. To tinker with the act now, just as its aims come to fruition, is irresponsible. Now is not the time!
In the 1970s, I watched Gulf fisheries almost collapse under the pressure of too many nets and hooks in the water and the lack of sufficient rules in place to ensure our fisheries were sustainable. It was heartbreaking to watch my Texas fisheries crumble.
As a result of these problems and others around the nation, Congress authored the Magnuson-Stevens Act. After a series of refinements and improvements, the results today are that fishermen are catching more, larger fish than in the recent past and our fisheries in the Gulf are more vibrant than ever before.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the stable foundation that has ended overfishing on most species with science-based decision making and has helped recreate a world class fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. This sentiment is evident by reports from fishermen in all parts of the Gulf. Fish populations are rebuilding and the overall health of the fishery is progressing. Now what we need is to focus on improving the management. The time has come for management to evolve past seasonal fishing to opportunity-based fishing – to go have a world class experience when you're able to.
By allowing the Magnuson-Stevens Act the ability to continue its success and by focusing on improving the way we manage and access the fishery we will be securing a healthier Gulf ecosystem for years to come.
And so today, it's time for us to make all the difference for the Gulf of Mexico and the country's other coastal fisheries.
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