Federal regulations hurting charter boat business

By Meggan Gray - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Each year, people spend millions of dollars to charter boats to venture out into the Mississippi Sound in search of fish. This year, not as many people were willing to spend the money. Tom Becker says it's because new federal regulations are limiting anglers to only two fish.

"They give us a two fish per person limit, no captain and crew," says Becker. "So they say the fish are over fished, and we are over fishing them."

Becker has been a charter boat captain for 24 years.  He says he's never seen such strict limits on Red Snapper.

"It's hurting us bad. How do they come up with this."

Becker blames poor data.  He says the Gulf Council relies on estimates from fishermen to set its regulations, and the numbers simply don't add up.

"They say in this year alone we've caught more Red Snapper in 75 days with two fish, than we did in previous years with four fish and the fish aren't coming back. Something's wrong with this figure then."

Becker says the two fish limit has kept more boats in port this season.  He says charter boat captains have seen a 20% - 50% loss, and it could get even worse next year.

"The environmental groups are wanting basically to get everybody off the water. Now that's sad. That's freshwater and saltwater, so it's recreational." Becker says, "You're talking about a big billion dollar industry and a lot of jobs if they get this through."

The veteran skipper is urging all fishermen to get involved, in hopes of saving the industry next year.

He says, "We need help and when there's a meeting, come out and speak your peace, whatever it is.  At least the public will know and the government will know, Mississippi cares.

A spokesperson for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Managers Council says the council is in the process of changing how it collects data used to set new regulations.

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