"The feds would cut up the pie, leave one little piece for the fishermen and say, 'Here you go, fight over it,' " said Dennis O'Hern of the newly formed Gulf Partnership for Marine Fisheries. "But we've wised up. Instead of working against each other to pick through the scraps, we are going to join forces and get a bigger piece of the pie."
O'Hern, the driving force behind the Fishing Rights Alliance, and Bob Spaeth, the voice of the Southern Offshore Fishing Association, began their dialogue two years ago when they shared a ride from the airport to a meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in Texas.
It appears that the Gulf Partnership will be funding independent scientists to do separate analysis on some Gulf fisheries. They pooled resources this year and funded a biologist to review proposed regulations on gag grouper. This contributed to the Gulf Council putting proposed rules on hold.
"The Magnuson Stevenson Act says that the 'best available science' needs to be used when making any management decision," O'Hern said. "But it doesn't say that the 'best available science' has to come from the National Marine Fisheries Service."
This seems like an interesting situation, since recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen have not traditionally played well together. I am curious how this will impact future fisheries management decisions. I have done some work with NMFS in the past and think very highly of the people I worked with. Of course, I am an economist by training, so I did not have any real interaction with many of the biologists. Is there really this much uncertainty over some of the stock assessments done by NMFS biologists or is this an example of a powerful coalition blocking proposed actions, even if those actions do not represent the best interests of the fishery at large? Possibly a little bit of both? I would love to hear some different peoples' opinions on the issue since I am by no means an expert on stock assessments or this fishery.
Hat Tip:Ahab's Journal