Orange Beach Captain Standing Up for Charter Boats, Protecting Middle America's Access to the Fishery and Urging Common Sense Approach to Amberjack Fishery Management
This is a letter written to the Gulf Council by Local Orange Beach Fishing Guide, Captain Troy Frady about Amendment 35 that is on the agenda at the April 2012 meeting in Corpus Christi, Tx. This amendment is about the Greater Amberjack and how a group of private recreational anglers who own their own boats, want to be able to catch Amberjack during the summer season. There are some scientific groups wanting to increase the harvest size of the Amberjack to 36 inches fork length, which is the ideal length for spawing and rebuilding the stock, but is almost certain death for the released fish. What a lot of people do not understand is because of over fishing of federal waters in the past within 30 miles Orange Beach, anglers will end up hooking, fighting and releasing a lot of undersized, exhausted fish that are too small to keep. When the water is hot, big Amberjack from 28" to 35" have a hard time surviving after being released. What you have to understand is that even though the best available science says that if we only harvest 36" fish or larger, the fishery will rebuild, but common sense says that smaller released fish that die will never spawn. So do we listen to the science or do we use common sense and take the fishing pressure off the Amberjack?
The problem charter fishermen in Orange Beach and other areas around the gulf coast have is, we need to have something to catch year round for our customers. Just because some people own their own boats, want something to catch during the summer, the council needs to consider middle America's right to have access to the fishery also. Charter boats are the only access point to the fishery for millions of Americans who have the same rights as those who own a $300,000 center console boat that live on the coast, Don't they? If the Red Snapper season is only open during June and part of July 2012 and so is Amberjack, by both being open, this limits Charter Boat owners from trying to make a living by being able to sell a fishing charter outside of the summer season. The Gulf Council Members need to understand that the silent majority of middle Americans need not be taken for granted. They love to come down and fish when the weather is cooler during the fall, winter and spring months. Middle America should have the same opportunity to catch a trophy fish just like private boat owners who live near the coast. It is a hard sell to ask customers to drive 8 or 10 hours to go fishing when the only species of fish they can catch is a Vermilion Snapper, Red Porgy or a Triggerfish. All of which are smaller fish and are not considered to be a cart topper or a trophy for an angler.
The last Amberjack stock assessment that the SSC (statistical science committee)produced to the Gulf Council, said that the Amberjack Assessment was "Deemed Unfit for Management Use." Since the council had this information in hand, they voted to close the Recreational Greater Amberjack Season during the months of June and July 2011. This is the time of the year where the fishing pressure is the highest. The idea was a good one. In 2011, the Amberjack fishery came in under quota. That means that a common sense approach to fishery management prevailed over science. If the Amberjack season is opened for the sole purpose of political pressure to appease private boat owners in 2012, there is a chance that anglers will exceed the catch limits and will trigger a pay back clause for 2013. That means, whatever overage there is, will have to be deducted in 2013. In lay terms, this means that all fishermen will get fewer days to catch Amberjack if Gulf Council Members give in to the pressure.
For once, the management plan is working for the Greater Amberjack and we should leave it alone and keep using common sense to manage our fishery.
April 10, 2012
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
2203 N. Lois Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33607
Captain Troy Frady
MV – Distraction
Orange Beach, Alabama 36561
RE: AMENDMENT 35 – GREATER AMBERJACK SEASON.
Dear Gulf Council Members,
I would like to give you some thoughts and observations on Amendment 35. I am a US Small Business and a charter boat owner and operator. I represent Middle America who uses charter boats as access to a public trust resource. My customers do not live near the water and do not own their own boats, but do have the same rights to fair and equitable access to the marine resources.
In recent years, my ability to operate my business has eroded to a point where I am limited to a season that depends solely upon tourism. My busiest time of the year is now the summer months and a limited window during spring break. I depend on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to make both science based and common sense decisions when it comes to fishing seasons and bag limits. As with any business that operates in commerce, I need the ability to market and try to make my living year round. I also need a trophy fish or something to catch at all times. It makes no sense to me to have every fishery open only during the summer months to benefit only those private boat owners or people who do not depend on the resource to make their living. We need a staggered fishing season in every fishery in order to have a chance to make it in the charter fishing industry.
In the most recent Amberjack Stock Assessment, The Scientific Staff that you appointed deemed it to be “UNFIT FOR MANAGEMENT USE.” I always support using the best available science for fishery management. However, when the science is lacking, there comes a time when fishery managers must rely on common sense.
In 2011, you used a common sense approach to the Amberjack season and the fishery came in under quota. We did not have to pay anything back. That is a testament where using common sense worked.
I strongly urge you to yield to common sense with the Amberjack Fishery and keep it closed during the summer months, which has the highest historical fishing pressure. Also, If you raise the size limit above 30 inches on the Amberjack, fishermen who fish fish in areas closer to shore (within 30 miles south of Orange Beach) where fishing pressure is highest, you will be catching 10 Amberjack for every 1 keeper. All I know is, when the water is hot and the oxygen level is depleted, a released fish often becomes a dead fish and dead fish do not spawn.
I urge you to use common sense and leave the Amberjack season alone in 2012. It’s working.
Captain Troy Frady