Working together: Recreational spearfishers and hook-and-liners proved both groups do better by working together. During this week's grouper and amberjack public hearings, both groups fought together to garner some small concessions. It was heartwarming to hear many recreational users state that the health of fishery was their utmost concern.
The grouper:The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council proposed a reduced closure of three months, instead of five, with a bag limit of one gag and two reds. The most common questions asked by the public: With the high cost of fuel causing approximately 30 percent less offshore fishing, doesn't that in and of itself constitute less fishing and harvest effort directed towards gag grouper? Since the red grouper population is now declared healthy, why can't fishermen have their original bag limit of five? Since the previous assessment used for red grouper stocks was flawed, how can this same science be accurate for gag grouper? These questions were asked, but not answered.
The amberjack: Pressure from the Fishing Rights Alliance and the public moved the council to revise one of its original proposals from one-half (yes, one-half) of an amberjack per person, per day, to allowing the current bag limit of one per person, but increasing the minimum size from 28 inches to 30.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and freediving classes at Aquatic Obsessions, 6193 Central Ave., St. Petersburg and can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 344-3483.