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· Junior member
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Dear Senator Cornyn,

As a recreational fisherman who fishes offshore as often as possible, I plead with you to look into what is happening at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), specifically, in reference to the proposed Red Snapper regulations. The recreational sector far surpasses the commercial sector on an economic impact basis to local economies, while posing a significantly smaller impact ecologically to the fishery. I have enclosed an article that outlines a direct link between NMFS proposed regulations and the economic impact to coastal communities.
I would also like to quickly list some other problem areas surrounding this issue, for I know that your time is limited for issues such as this.

1. NMFS data that the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is based on, is flawed due to NMFS not allowing data sampled over structure, only hard, smooth bottom.
2. The inherent inequity of a 51% commercial, 49% recreational split in the TAC, Gulfwide.
3. The implementation of Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQ's), which allow the commercial sector to fish 365 days a year, rather than the first ten days of the month, as was previously. This allows for rampant illegal fishing, and stretches the ability of enforcement agencies beyond the breaking point, financially.
4. Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS's) are a proposal by NMFS as a way of keeping track of which boats are offshore. NMFS seems blinded by technology that high speed "runner" boats, without VMS, would shuttle a lucrative cargo.
5. That while the commercial season has been lengthened and commercial size limit has been lowered from 16" to 13", the recreational season has been shortened to six months (possibly going lower in 2007 and NO season in 2008/2009) and the bag limit has been lowered from four fish to two fish. There is strong evidence (see enclosed) that this will devastate the "party boat" industry, and have an immediate major negative economic impact on communities from South Padre Island, Texas to Miami, Florida.
6. The inability of NMFS to consider a "First Four" rule proposed by many recreational and conservation groups, which would significantly reduce mortality in the recreational sector from fishermen throwing back undersized Snapper in an effort to reach the minimum size. (Stress, distended swim bladder and predator mortality).
7. If it is the task of the NMFS to manage the fishery at sustainable levels, why is the fishery suddenly at "crisis" levels, after years of "management"? Has the "management" utterly failed?
8. Even given large numbers of individuals, it is virtually impossible to crash a fishery with a rod and reel. Multiple "Bandit" rigs per boat, with hundreds of hooks per rig, certainly can.
The recreational sector historically and consistently has "Put it's money where it's mouth is" by a combination of donating millions and promoting and paying millions in taxes on sporting goods to be used to enhance and protect our natural resources. The commercial fishing sector has never, and will never, pour the amount of money into the resource that the recreational sector has. The recreational sector accounts for more jobs, more revenue and more tax receipts than the commercial sector could ever dream of. We are asking to be given a fair shake by the NMFS, and a chance to preserve our recreational fishing heritage. Thank you for your leadership.


Mark Holl

Statement from Captain Elliott's Party Boats

First, I would like to thank everyone for all of their support and concern for our business. We have always strived to provide the best offshore fishing experience possible for our customers.

It is indeed true that we are in the process of liquidating our fishing business (commercial and recreational). All of our fishing vessels are currently for sale along with their permits. We feel that this process could take 2 years or longer and we will continue to do business as usual until the final boat is sold.

As many of you know, the NMFS is currently readjusting the TAC for red snapper which will reduce bag limits and possibly shorten the season even more. In the future, there will be more seasons set and bag limits reduced on other fish species that we target. We feel that the NMFS is ruining the gulf fishery and will cost many people their livelihood and other business will be forced out as well.

In addition to our fishing business, we have been in the crewboat business for 27 years, operating our vessels all along the gulf coast. After evaluating both businesses, we feel that concentrating our time and effort into the crewboat business is our best option.

What does this mean to our customers? We will reopen Captain Elliott's Party Boat office on February 1 and operate as usual. We will provide the same trips as we have in the recent past and continue to work to make our fishing trips as successful as they have always been. We will avoid selling any boats during the middle of the fishing season, but that may or may not be possible.

We have attended meetings and fought the federal government for years regarding the fishing regulations to no avail.
The federal government seems determined to eliminate fishing in the Gulf and we will be able to take no more.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me (Casey Cundieff) at [email protected] or my sister Lari at [email protected]

Thank You

Casey Cundieff
Lari Scott
Elliott Cundieff

Captain Elliott's Party Boats, Inc.

(The Cundieff's own the largest fleet and the largest, newest "party" boat on the Texas Gulf Coast. They have been in business for 27 years, and have provided the opportunity for over 150,000 people to fish.)
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