Who says that you can’t still see government in (lack of) motion?
Disappointing isn’t it? Those of you who have followed this and had hopes that they would meet us in the middle on managing the resource to create an opportunity to build back a population of large snook?
Take heart, the dedicated efforts of a few people who did not let bad decisions be “public acceptance”, it really could have been much worse. People who did keep sn0ok, outcasts among their peers and rightfully so: The majority of those who spend their time in Florida Gulf coast waters know the real score. A sad commentary on the agency that manages the resources that belong to us all, let’s take a look at the big picture when it comes to “Snook.”
A big topic stretching into a second year. The management of the species of snook on Florida’s Gulf coast: Lessons in frustration. Let’s give you an update to what has transpired in the last two months.
In a December plea to the Florida state Commission, the shareholders in this industry and the regular guy still want to see the species managed where we can again have a population of big snook to enjoy “not destroy.” In what has become all too common, they have failed to even acknowledge the receipt of the letter and not responded to follow-up contact attempts. They finally did, a few days past three months. With a one paragraph reply. Not kidding. That correspondence is below. I cringe that they use the pronoun “we” as no one from the Commission dared to sit down at a meeting with me.
In summary: After the long debate in 2013 about the decision to reopen the species to harvest on the Gulf coast, my colleague and I discussed the state of a species their scientists claim to be “80% recovered” to 2009 levels. In some broad areas there are very few snook at all. In others there are substantial populations of juvenile fish. Poaching in January had bad impacts on many of the locations of mature fish.
Based on the opinions of the top guides and knowledgeable anglers around the Gulf coast we thought that holding meetings with state staff and us, the people who actually know what snook numbers are, would be a way to move forward from an incorrect decision and perhaps move forward with a new goal to “manage the species” back to prominence out of these ashes. This would involve looking at the rules. Specifically managing the slot. But moving forward also “regional management.”
Immediately after the seasonal closure of the species in December, the following letter was sent:
Mr. Wiley and members of the Commission,
The stretch of open season concludes for the Atlantic in a few days. With some time before snook reopens again, and the lengthy discussion on the opening of snook, my colleagues and I have some concerns and would like to continue to discuss some changes that will protect the future of the species.
It will obviously require the involvement of everyone. I cannot comment intelligently on the Atlantic species or what would be a good idea for over there. However, my colleague that were listed on my September 9 letter, I remained in contact with to give updates on the interaction I had with the agency.
It is our feeling that with no modification to the decision to reopen, something should be done to preserve the future of our fishery, especially the larger fish. We all saw the removal of female fish to harvest because of the current slot size, in fact, in some areas pretty much every slot size fish was caught and killed. With the upcoming generation of snook and those that follow, we overwhelmingly believe that the slot should be adjusted so fewer females are being harvested. Dropping the maximum size to a lower number was overwhelmingly embraced by people who probably aren’t going to harvest any fish. Make a slot that makes sense and give us a chance to rebuild a fishery of large fish for catch and release.
I will send this to Chris Wynn and other contacts I have. I can get statements to you from all the guides who support this kind of move and would even suggest setting up a formal meeting to show the support for this kind of change. We all hold a great appreciation for a resource that is still a long way from recovered and want to find a way to help make that happen in a more expedient time frame.
Considering changes to the allowed harvest size should be considered separate from the decision to reopen and should not wait until another stock assessment. It is a management change that makes sense and should be seriously evaluated as quickly as possible. I vow to give all my own resources to get the feedback/support to help make this happen with all segments of the fishing community.
I would like to be answered directly and before too much time passes. This letter, along with going to you and Wynn will also go to my colleagues and other main contacts in the fishing community. If you need a demonstration that they would like this to be evaluated and addressed, I will gladly facilitate that for you as well.
Owner and guide: www.strikethreekayakfishing.com
As you can see, it was a reasonable request. How did this get no response at all, then a brief reply that does not even investigate the options? Are these people not holding public jobs that are supposed to represent us and properly manage the resources that belong to us all? Saying “we will address it again in 2015” (the next stock assessment) is sad on its own. It is increasingly bothersome when you consider another item: These people DO the stock assessment.
I was very polite, reasonable and patient through the 2013 meetings. I endured listening to the people on the other side say that they erred in their communication with those of us who are experts on the species. I didn’t give up on the fact that their decision was wrong but I did my best to keep communication open. That has not been adequately reciprocated.
What’s worse: I see their communication with others paraded in front of me, so what am I to think? I think it is time to call a spade a spade. I think that it is a joke that they form lettered replies to you emails at the time the species was going to open. I think it is worse that they did not study the species at the time of the weather event. I think that it is most notable, sad and disturbing that they do not act on opportunities created to do the best with a bad situation and maybe even repair some relationships at the same time.
A solutions person, I am at a point where it is difficult to operate: How do you make any progress with people who won’t respond to an assertive plea in two months’ time?
How can we expect our most important inshore species to achieve that level again with so many errors in their program?
I have received so much great feedback from my peers and other strangers for the effort. No question, these frustrations are not just with the guides in the toughest hit areas but from people who care about this all over the state. I share the frustration after so many attempts to make progress then realizing that the other side wasn’t really doing anything more than appeasements.
The biggest win was the outcry by so many of you, a majority of the people who value snook, to ignore the decision and release all fish anyway. That helps. But what a blow to the future: Not addressing some management changes and the amount of snook that may be harvested when these juvenile fish hit the current slot. The proposal that was so widely accepted by my colleagues would actually make it easier to catch a take-home snook but would preserve more of the bigger female prospects for our future.
If I could correct one misconception at the state level, a theme that the public shares with me: These fish are more valuable alive than dead. If I could get them to see that and embrace statements like the one from Eric Bachnik (of L & S Bait Company, also known as Mirrolure) “I would sell more of my product if you open up the season but it doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. The snook faces so many challenges than other species. We should act to advance this fishery not cripple it.”
Not alone, ask Captain Scott Moore about snook. Take your pick. The guys who are taking snook trips are pretty protective of where they are going, and rightfully so: Some of them are very concerned about the fish they have. Ask me? I have had a solid business through Fall and to start winter. Taken off as a target species, none of my clients have even accidentally caught a snook in now almost THREE MONTHS. A lot of days where I was in locations where I would be targeting snook in normal conditions, we still have a problem in a fishery that is supposed to be 80% recovered.
Not to be misunderstood, a majority of my colleagues believe it can be a sustained harvest species again. Accusations that we wanted it closed to keep it closes and make it 100% release are unfounded and untrue. Opening to harvest: That’s water under the bridge. We are not even talking about that any longer. We are talking about managing what we have. If they will not even meet with us and sincerely try to ascertain what that should be, they are doomed to make more management errors. And this, after a promised effort to hold these kind of summits.
I know this is broken record time: This resource belongs to all of us. You should shout out your displeasure with not seeing it managed properly. Do not settle for their excuses or lack of effort.
So you have the exact interaction- Today’s communication with the FWC Commission (March 10, 2014):
Good morning Mr. Taylor,
I appreciate your enthusiasm about Florida’s snook fishery. I am disappointed that you continue to state that FWC has not responded to you. We have spent many hours with you discussing snook and have sent you two letters on this topic. As mentioned in these letters, we are waiting until after the snook stock assessment is completed in 2015 to consider further actions on snook. At that time we will reevaluate snook management strategies and regulations. We look forward to working with you and other Florida stakeholders that are passionate about the snook fishery in 2015.
To the Commission
From: Neil Taylor
Subject: Reply to March 10, 2014 Email
I must reply to tell you that this makes me even more unhappy: It takes three months and on week to finally give a one paragraph reply? And a reply that ignores what was promised in the July meeting? Chris Wynn said it himself: Communication. The science people did not attend the September 11 meeting. But it was promised to me that moving forward they would use me as a resource to get the proper information from the fishing community.
Through my efforts with the stakeholders, they wanted to become part of that process and open up talks about how to manage what we have. Now you all are changing the game on me. You don’t want any input on a resource until 2015? Now that I have that officially as your response I am going back to them and saying that the agency changed their position and that it does not want my help getting the top fishing guides involved in the input process. I don’t feel that I have any choice. This statement along with the fact that there has been zero contact with anyone at the FWRI since August is an indication to me that the meetings were an appeasement.
I am not “appeased” and instead aggravated. We presented a great strategy for them to consider following our input to present to YOU, the Commission because you are the only ones who can make final decisions. The error to reopen to harvest in the past, the opportunity to manage the population of juvenile fish we have, there is still an opportunity for proper management. Take a look in the mirror: How does it look that you didn’t even acknowledge that proposal and say “we will have our people look into this.” This is not Neil Taylor, this was from over 90 individual stakeholders. Not to mention the thousands of others who would like a good snook fishery back in our future who also are getting my updates on this.
I believe that being the case, it should be made very publicly known that the Commission’s official position is to put off the stakeholders. I think it is frightening. This system in charge of managing our resources? Delivered to you on a tee to not only create a better system but also erase a lot of apathy with the system? It is time for you to wake up. I’ve already spent more time on this reply than it took for yours and mine is going back to you inside 20 minutes of reading it. Yours: Three months and six days?
You may not like me but maybe because you have never met me. Why is that? A species as important as snook and who I represent, why wasn’t one of the actual commissioners at the two meetings? What actually was reported back to you? Do you realize what was argued at those meetings? Do you not realize the major flaws in the decision making process that were exposed? My colleagues felt that with actually getting a chance things may actually change. They believed in me. I have been diligent.
But I can’t make a difference when dealing with an agency that won’t even read and consider what I have proposed. Communication. I have been thorough. Three plus months to give a one paragraph reply, ignoring a very good proposal and “see ya in 2015” is very, very unacceptable. Again, not my deal, I’ll take this back to the people I was representing and see what they have to say. The shame, I can tell you: It is not on me.
Sad but true: Written back in mid-summer of 2013:
I have news for them, they have already completely ruined relations with the public’s trust and they are never going to get it back while certain persons and their tailor made science and their back door politics are still at the FWRI. They are really not sincere about correcting lack of communications as they say, but they are sincere about correcting the appearance of them appearing to pay attention to stakeholders. Appearances can be deceiving, especially when it’s been done before.
More links on the snook debacle of 2013:
Bradenton Herald: Reopening of Snook
The Snook Debacle Continues
Neil Taylor on The Reopening of Snook
Fish Handling, The Snook Foundation August 2013
Reopening Snook 2013: Meeting with FWC
Keep Snook Closed
The Snook Fallacy
Snook reopening despite widespread opposition
Snook not ready for this
Back to the Hook for Snook
So much effort by so many people with no personal agenda: Perhaps the stakeholders should be in charge of this process from now on. They are the only ones who have the correct information and care enough to make the effort to protect and grow the resource. Take it to the bank: My colleagues care. And they should have been asked to be involved. For sure, I think it is time to make changes in this agency. They said “we” in their response. Not once did anyone from the Commission sit in on a meeting or pick up the phone to call me. “We” they are talking about people they sent in who had no power to do anything and did not express any urgency back to the people who could make changes.
What a sad, sad waste of public monies. Worse yet, not making decisions that the people want? There is no system I know of that is in more need of drastic change. How sad it is I have to go back to my 2009 albums to see photos of big snook. With the way this species is going to be managed it may take 20 or more years to bring it back to prominence. A species more valuable alive than dead, they should be meeting with us until their management criteria is corrected. But since they don’t care to meet at all: How about we just push for resignations and a new system?
Owner and guide: www.strikethreekayakfishing.com
(Cell) 727-692-6345 LivelyBaits@aol.com
Owner and site administrator: www.capmel.com
Co-host: Outdoor Fishing Adventures, 8 to 9AM Sundays on 1040 “The Team”