HOOKED UP: Red snapper allotment a retirement plan for many shareholders

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The most controversial part of the Red Snapper IFQ program may be the part that allows shareholders to sell their yearly allocation. It essentially turns some fishermen into businessmen.

Our research has revealed about 120 shareholders - 37 percent of the whole - sell their entire allocation each year. It allows the shareholders to make tens, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Galveston commercial fisherman Buddy Guindon defends these fishermen "It's his retirement," he tells us.

Slidell commercial fisherman Tommy Williams thinks some of the program needs to be tweaked, but he thinks these shares provide security for retirement fishermen

"They worked for the shares," Williams says. "They were out here, getting their hands cut, cut by fish, bit by fish, baiting hooks. That is their retirement because most fishermen don't have a 401(k). This is their 401(k)."

FOX 8 News sent letters to the fishermen who appeared to be selling their yearly allocations. We heard back from many of them.

One left this voicemail:

Your information is correct, but fails to take notice that I have a vessel permit, two of them, for over 50 years – and that I am currently 90 years old, and I don't believe I need to be dropping a line in the water.

Charles Sullivan sent us this email:

I was a commercial fisherman for 37 years in the Gulf of Mexico. I earned my allocation for my production as a commercial fisherman. I cannot fish now so I lease my allocation to fishermen I know locally. Why do you have a problem with that, Lee?  How many years have you spent out at sea fishing to earn an allocation?  My guess is zero.

But Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves says:

Where do you even start here?  This is so offensive and infuriating.  This guy "earned" a paycheck for his work.  He never "earned" the public's natural resources.  Let's apply this same logic to other natural resources -- oil and gas.  What would happen if we just said that we would give away the nation's oil and gas for free?  That whoever we give it away to and their heirs would get to keep making millions off of it forever.  People would and should go nuts.  This is no different.  What makes it worse is that the public resource is being taken away from the actual public that owns it -- we can only fish for nine days while this guy can make millions by not ever lifting a finger.

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