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How to Have Our Red Snapper–Catch–and Eat it Too

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J.P. Brooker (left) with CBS Correspondent Omar Villafranca on location at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Cocodrie. © Trishna Gurung/Ocean Conservancy

As a sixth generation Floridian who loves to be out on the water with a rod and reel, finding myself at the end of a dock in the Gulf of Mexico is a regular occurrence. What set Sunday afternoon apart was having CBS correspondent Omar Villafranca sharing that dock down in Cocodrie, Louisiana with me, talking about red snapper rebuilding efforts.

It turns out that Omar and I share a common love for fishing—a connection that we share with millions of Americans. It’s the reason why I’m proud to be part of Ocean Conservancy’s lawsuit to keep red snapper rebuilding on track. Last week, we filed a case against the Department of Commerce to protect red snapper conservation and safeguard America’s fisheries. Ocean Conservancy doesn’t take litigation lightly but in this case, we felt compelled to do it.

It felt good to have national television interested in telling a fair and balanced piece on what has become a hotly contested fishery. Earlier this year, I shared the disappointment of other recreational fishermen when a three-day federal fishing season was announced. But I understood it was a necessity based on state water seasons: 365 days in Texas, more than 70 days in Florida and Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama all inconsistent with federal water seasons. If you think of the red snapper quota as a pie, the states help themselves to generous slices, leaving just a sliver for the federal season.

The Department’s decision to extend the season by 39 days will almost certainly cause overfishing that will add another six years to the rebuilding timeline. It disregards the many coastal communities, fishermen and small businesses that have made hard decisions and big sacrifices to bring this fishery back from the edge. America shouldn’t be subjected to short-sighted political decisions that override good, science-based policy for red snapper and other fisheries.

The way we manage our fisheries in America is held up as a world-class example of how to do things right. Why weaken those rules–especially when they are based on sound science and accountability?

At the end of the day, I think we all share the same goals of seeing America’s fisheries thrive. I’m proud to be part of the efforts to rebuild red snapper and protect one of America’s greatest natural resources. Perhaps my biggest motivation is working towards a day in the near future when I’m out on the water with my two little girls, sharing their thrill of landing a Big One. I want to make sure that when they land that Big One, there’s a good chance it’ll be a red snapper.

By being caretakers of what we have today, we can have our fish–catch–and eat it too.

Ocean Conservancy is deeply thankful to Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) for hosting us.

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