When Congressman Steve Southerland showed up at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in Key West last week, fishermen expected to hear the same old rhetoric about his plan for government to interfere with the public process for managing fisheries. After all, it is Congressman Southerland who wants to tie the hands of the Council by eliminating management options that help small family fishing businesses like my own.
So when we heard him praise the Council for their good work, I admit I was surprised. Congressman Southerland went on to talk about the need for better stock assessments and better data to be used to manage the Gulf's fisheries. And I don't disagree.
As a commercial fisherman, I rely on accurate science to tell me how many fish I can catch each year without hurting the red snapper population in the long term. I understand the need to set limits for conservation and to live within those limits. I also understand that stock assessments cost money, and the National Marine Fisheries Service needs more funding to improve stock assessments.
If Congressman Southerland really is committed to improving fisheries data, he'll back up his words with actions - and he will deliver funding to NMFS for annual stock assessments for red snapper and the rest of the Gulf's fish species. Fishermen don't need another politician pointing out the problem - we need our federal leaders to actually help fund the solution.
Captain Jim Zurbrick
Commercial fisherman, Steinhatchee, Florida
Fish for America LLC