Controversy Continues About Proposed Amendment For Snapper Season

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PANAMA CITY BEACH - People who make their living fishing in the gulf are fighting against a new proposal.

They claim it would further limit the number of red snapper they can catch. The proposal would split the recreational catch limit equally between charter fishermen and private fishermen.

Currently the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council allocated 51% of the red snapper catch each year to the commercial fishing industry. Recreational fishermen get the other 49%.

A proposed amendment would split the recreational limit equally, giving half to the charter industry, and the other half to private fishermen. Pam Anderson of Capt. Anderson's Marina said, "As they divide this fishery, they just continue to pit one group against another and there are plenty of fish out there for all of us and it's really not necessary to do that, we just need to get better data for it."

Those in the fishing industry have repeatedly accused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, of underestimating the number of red snapper in the Gulf and mismanaging the Fishery.

Melton Miller is the manager of the Anderson's Seafood Market and said, "Well, I don't see how they could ever be the right numbers. From what I see, as far as people gathering data here, you know you have people show up from 8 o'clock to 10 o'clock and the boats come in at 4 o'clock, you know, they missed that boat that's coming in. I don't see any accurate....there's no way there's any accurate data."

NOAA bases it's snapper season on those counts, which this year was only 9 days for federal waters. The state allowed 52 days.

Anderson added "We're not taking more fish than we should to keep it a sustainable fishery, we're over-fishing what limit they give us. And because we keep doing that, they keep shortening the seasons."

Anderson also blames lawsuits from environmental groups for stricter regulations, and claims those groups have ulterior motives, "They want us to all have catch shares and fish tags and in the long run they want to sell those or lease those catch shares or fish tags to us. It's something, it's about the money."

The public will have another chance to comment on the amendment on August 27 in Biloxi, Mississippi.

If you'd like to attend, contact Pam Anderson at 850-234-3435.