The offshore purse seine fishery took off in response to the demand created by Prudhomme’s blackened redfish. NOAA scientists purse seining redfish in the Gulf. Photo: National Marine Fisheries Service/Karen Mitchell

by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink and Gulf Seafood Foundation Board Member

Before the current Gulf of Mexico’s Red Snapper controversy, the most hotly contested fish was red drum, or redfish. In his recently published book, Louisiana author Robert Fritchey brings to life the history of a recreational fishing organization that influenced fishery management and the politics of the Gulf states in a way that resulted in taking fish off Americans’ dinner plates and placing them on the hooks of private anglers.

Missing RedfishMissing Redfish: The Blackened History of a Gulf Coast Icon ($17.95), from New Moon Press, chronicles the transformation of a universally shared source of nourishment and recreation into an engine for the consumption of goods and services related to sport fishing.

Fritchey, from Golden Meadow, LA, is the author of Wetland Riders. His latest book is available on Amazon in both paperback and digital formats, as well as digitally at Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press and Apple iTunes.

The Gulf Coast author documents how politics, policies and bad science and fishery management by both federal and state agencies led to the Coastal Conversation Association’s (CCA) takeover of a species gone missing years before Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme blackened his first redfish.

“Our wildlife and fishery resources are held in public trust, which in essence means they are owned by everyone,” said Fritchey. “When everyone has a say in how these valuable resources are to be utilized, a babel of conflicting and emotional claims arises. And in Gulf fisheries, so it has.”

“As a mythical sea creature, the redfish ranks with Jonah’s regurgitating behemoth and the vengeful white whale of Melville, the difference being that the red drum really does exist,” said Fritchey. Photo: Brian Gauvin

“In ‘Missing Redfish’ I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible, in part to avoid boring the general reader and also because a complete understanding of the scientists’ equations and statistics is beyond my own abilities,” explained Fritchey. “As a mythical sea creature, the redfish ranks with Jonah’s regurgitating behemoth and the vengeful white whale of Melville, the difference being that the red drum really does exist, and that the myths surrounding this bitterly contested fish originated not in great literature but in the slick campaign rhetoric of privileged anglers from that land of tall tales, Texas.”

Today red drum, or redfish, remains closed to commercial fishers, except for 45k pounds harvested in Mississippi waters. Across the Gulf the fishery has recovered. But, with the continuously increasing number of sport fishermen, the CCA continues its effort to keep it out of the hands of the American consumers.

Fritchey feels the fishery has recovered enough for limited commercial fishing to be reinstated. He also feels that there needs to be an accurate stock assessment taken this year by the National Marine Fisheries Service before it is reopened. “It would be nice if the stock assessment was done using cooperative research, partnering with fishermen and scientists from NMFS and universities to collect the information,” he said.

Missing Redfish: The Blackened History of a Gulf Coast Icon is a recommended read to better understand the history of Gulf politics, as well as the influential players, affecting the harvesting of all Gulf seafood for worldwide consumers to enjoy.

Blackened History of Gulf Redfish Documented in New Book
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