In March, Senator Richard Shelby (AL) announced that the funding has been secured for a $9.5 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant program to help improve fishery management in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA will accept proposals from the community on how to better conduct stock surveys, with an emphasis on surveying areas that aren’t currently done by NOAA, such as artificial reefs. The stock assessments will help to give NOAA a better idea as to where we are in the process of rebuilding the red snapper stock in the Gulf of Mexico, allowing them to make more accurate management decisions moving forward.
This program, championed by Senator Shelby, is an encouraging step toward conservation of our marine ecosystems during a period of uncertainty for our nation’s environmental landscape. Under the extremely successful Magnuson-Stevens Act, almost 100 species have either been rebuilt or are in the process of rebuilding due to the science based management measures it created.
One of the most important approaches to fishery management that the Act takes is using the best-available science. Science can be, and is, constantly updated, and we should always be encouraging new methods of data collection. Allowing NOAA to branch out beyond their resources and take advice from other professionals will allow for better data, which will in-turn allow for more accurate fishery management plans.
Fishermen and other important economic sectors can only benefit from the continued updating of the ‘best available science.’ In the long term, more accurate management plans ensure that there is more access for everyone across the board. However, we must continue to move forward in keeping the health and sustainability of our fisheries in mind, first and foremost.
We as a nation are lucky to have the robust fisheries that we do, and we are fortunate to have such bountiful waters. Some species, such as the red snapper, were almost lost entirely due to bad management. Now is the most crucial time to carefully rebuild the fishery, lest we risk to losing it again due to greed and politics.
Everyone is entitled to the fish, whether you are a commercial fisherman, recreational fisherman, or just a consumer looking for fresh seafood at the supermarket. It is all of our responsibility to make sure these fish are available to all, and the best way to do that is to patiently stay the course of the management plans that have been successful for decades now.