WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 3, 2016) — Gulf red snapper was on the menu again today on Capitol Hill as lawmakers heard testimony about adverse impacts to small business from federal fisheries management. The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship heard of challenges from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of Maine.
“Federal policy has obstructed our access to the great outdoors,” said U.S. Representative Garret Graves (R – La.), lead witness for the hearing. A champion for marine conservation, Graves reflected on fishing opportunities from his childhood spanning 365 days a year for Gulf red snapper, compared to only 10 days now available for his children. “These restrictions are strangling small businesses along our coast,” he said.
Small Business Committee Chairman Senator David Vitter convened the hearing highlighting the recent GAO Report, which concluded NOAA Fisheries lacks a comprehensive strategy related to fisheries data collection. “Proper data collection is paramount for proper management,” said Vitter. “Gulf anglers are an economic powerhouse for both Louisiana and the entire Gulf region, which makes protecting the public’s access to these resources even more important,” he said.
“Small businesses in our industry have been unreasonably burdened by federal mandates,” said Pam Anderson, operations manager of Capt. Anderson’s Marina in Panama City, Fla. “Compounding the problem, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council under the direction of NOAA Fisheries has picked winners and losers in the commercial industry through catch shares. Now, they are attempting to do the same in the charter/for-hire industry. Catch shares are designed to reduce access — and put people out of business.”
Also testifying was Hughes Andry, vice president of Sportco Marketing, a representative agency based in Houston that distributes fishing tackle. “In the years prior to the current federal mismanagement of Gulf Red Snapper, a dealer would expect a 25-30% lift in business leading up to and during the spring to fall seasons,” Andry told the committee. “Some dealers are reporting as much as a 40% deficit in sales due to the current management. That is a fairly significant amount to any level of tackle dealer, much less the mom-and-pop independent retailer.”
“The Gulf states are significantly better equipped to manage this public resource in a way that maximizes its benefits to the nation — both recreationally and commercially. I urge Congress to act now to set Gulf red snapper management on a new course and away from the current system that is failing small businesses throughout the Gulf region,” Andry said.
Fisheries economist Brad Gentner spoke of cause and effect, stating that abundant fisheries drive effort for saltwater recreational anglers. “Effort drives spending and value for small businesses, which should be a good thing,” said Gentner. “But at the moment that value is not only being ignored, it is being squandered.”
Video archive and written testimony of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing “The Impacts of Federal Fisheries Management on Small Businesses” can be found at this committee link.