I was pleased to see in your article “How many red snapper are actually in the Gulf?” that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has formed a team to study the red snapper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico.
I am skeptical, though, that Ross has any interest in actually listening to what those scientists have to say. Just this past summer, Ross added an extra 39 days to the snapper season with no explanation.
Memos revealed through a lawsuit against the Commerce Department show that Ross and a top aide knew that the decision would lead to overfishing. They acknowledge that extending the season would lead to an overage of six million pounds, or about 40 percent over the overall harvest.
This wanton disregard for their own laws and the effects of overfishing puts fishers, consumers and chefs like me at risk. By law, the overages must be repaid in 2018, and we will all be punished with shorter seasons, fewer fish, and higher prices.
Decisions like these will have far-reaching consequences. The extension of the 2017 season will have likely pushed the snapper recovery date back six years to 2038.
The Magnuson Stevens Act which governs federal fisheries will be re-authorized in 2018 and we must ensure that the laws protecting fish and fishers are preserved and followed.
No amount of recounting will save red snapper for future generations if the government can choose to break the law whenever it doesn’t like what the science is telling us.