Our coastal fishing industry is greatly suffering from declining groundfish populations and reduced catch quotas. Canada has banned rockfishing in Newfoundland and Quebec due to the collapse of rockfish stocks. Rockfish species, also known as groundfish, include cod, hake, flounder and red snapper. These bottom-dwelling fish are slow growing, reproduce sporadically and many can live more than 100 years, and some 200. In 2000, Pacific coast rockfish landings were less than 40,000 tons, about half the 20-year average of 75,000 tons. Our Commerce Department then pronounced the groundfish industry a “fisheries failure” and initiated programs to purchase fishing boats and buy back fishing permits. This successful program reduced our rockfishing fleet by nearly 50%. Commercial rockfishing has also been banned in many areas. The reasons for the decline of rockfish species include overfishing, warmer ocean temperatures and recent revelations that groundfish reproduce much slower than previously thought.

Red snapper, an overfished bottom-dwelling fish found mostly in the Gulf of Mexico, is much sought-after by the commercial and sport fishing industry. Most red snapper caught today are only between 3 and 6 years old. Advocates claim the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster severely affected this and other groundfish species. It has recently been discovered much of the oil from this disaster has settled on the ocean floor, the habitat of these fish. However, even before this spill, overfishing caused Florida to ban red snapper fishing in 2008. Following BP, a federal ban was instituted in 2010 which was eased, but not removed, 2 years later. These events have severely impacted many Gulf fishermen who depend on rockfishing to make their living. Some Gulf states now wish to assume management of their rockfish resource from the federal government. Opponents worry this will lead to overfishing and prevent this species from recovering.

Pending Legislation:
S.105 - Red Snapper Management Improvement Act

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Poll Opening Date
March 26, 2020
Poll Closing Date
April 1, 2020

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