Key West CitizenJune 11, 2017

Thanks to the NOAA bureaucracy and a submissive Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen organization, the yellowtail snapper fishery is now shut down for its most productive months of June and July. 

Several years ago, I served on a stock assessment panel for yellowtail, and even with the unlimited commercial fishing effort of the time, the stock was found to be so healthy and prolific, that there was not even a murmur of further restrictions. Yet a few short years later, we find the highly reduced fishery of today, shut down over a punitive quota based entirely on environmental politics.

After 40 years of duplicitous regulations and their supposed “unintended consequences,” our industry leaders continue to be manipulated by clever fishery managers. They still expect bureaucrats to be as straightforward as fishermen, and inevitably fail to recognize the real political agenda.

Federal fishery managers know there is no possibility of ever overfishing yellowtail. They know we don’t need a quota. They know fishing families are being decimated by the loss of income. Of course they know! They just believe it is a price worth paying. Their lives are not impacted. Their incomes are not reduced. Their sleep is not ruined, and their futures are not threatened. 

Catching yellowtail is one of the most specialized fisheries in America, and I have seen no fishery in which it is more difficult to make a living. If regulators handed out a million new licenses, there wouldn’t be more than a handful of fishermen who could even show a profit, much less impact the massive fish stock.

There is simply no scientific, economic, or common sense justification for a closure. With license limitations, gear restrictions, and existing area closures, stock levels are at an all time high, yet I have a dozen boats that will have no income for the next two months, and a fish house with no fish to sell.

Actions like this closure should be a wake-up call to those well-intentioned people who imagine they can save commercial fishing by spending millions of dollars to preserve a few waterfront dock spaces.

Peter M. Bacle

Stock Island