Percentage of snapper quota goes to charter captains

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Recreational fishing groups are crying foul over a National Marine Fisheries Service pilot program that has taken a percentage of the 2014 recreational red-snapper quota and given it to a select group of charter-boat captains.

As part of the program, 17 captains operating out of Texas, Alabama and Florida were issued unhindered access to 5.4 percent of the recreational quota. According to long-standing policy, recreational anglers are allowed to harvest 49 percent of each season’s total allowable catch. Commercial fishers harvest 51 percent.

The pilot program drew heavy criticism from the Coastal Conservation Association and other conservation groups because the program allows the 17 captains to target red snapper throughout the year. The rest of the recreational fleet may harvest red snapper in federal waters only from June 1 through July 10.

“The public has already sent literally thousands of comments against concepts that attempt to funnel access to marine resources through a very few select businesses,” Ted Venker, conservation director for CCA, told organization members in a memo. “The response to these concepts has been wildly skewed in opposition, as it is commonly realized that the only people to benefit from them are the businesses that will use those public resources for their own financial gain.”

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