The Gulf Council is comprised of fishermen and other experts in the fishery from states across the Gulf of Mexico. Drawing upon the expertise of these local fishermen ensures that federal fishing regulations are made with direct understanding of, and passion for, our fishery. The Council is pleased to welcome aboard its newest members, Mr. Bob Gill and Mr. Billy Broussard.
Bob Gill fills a commercial Council seat for the State of Florida. He’s no stranger to the Council. He served as a Council member from 2006-2010 and chaired the Council from 2011-2012. Interestingly, Bob didn’t start life in the fishing industry. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he earned a Master’s in Ocean Engineering from MIT. From there, he worked his way up the corporate ladder and eventually became President of a company that developed aftermarket automotive parts.
The call of a warm ocean breeze and his desire to work for himself proved too strong to resist. In 1986, even though he knew nothing about seafood or fish processing, Bob uprooted everything and bought Shrimp Landing, a dockside wholesale and retail seafood business in Crystal River, Florida. At the time, Shrimp Landing’s business was primarily, as its name implies, focused on the inshore shrimp industry. As Bob’s business grew, it became very apparent that fishing regulations would have a major impact on him. He started getting involved in fisheries management at the State level so that he could understand and react to regulations as a businessman. Eventually, he learned that he could influence the regulatory process and became a regular commenter and participant in state and federal management. As his business grew from state species (shrimp, mullet, blue crab) to federal species (snapper and grouper) his involvement in fisheries management grew with it. Eventually, he earned a seat on the Council.
Beyond his fish house and Council involvement, Bob is always busy finding ways to contribute his time and expertise to nurture the industry. Of his long list of additional activities, he is most enthusiastic about his regional and national involvement with the Marine Resource Education Program (MREP). It’s an educational program designed by fishermen to empower fishermen with a better understanding of how, when, and where to engage effectively in fisheries science and management. He also co-founded the Gulf Commercial Fisherman’s Program which aims to create and cultivate new entrants into the commercial fishery. Bob also recently started developing a Fisherman Recognition program that aims to reward those who promote sustainable fisheries, conservation, or enhancement of Gulf of Mexico marine resources and the communities that depend on them.
Mr. Gill answered the following questions to provide some insight on his perspective of the Gulf fishery:
How is your motivation to serve on the Council different now than it was last time?
Well, it’s pretty obvious that I’m crazier this time because I know what I’m getting myself into. In reality, the Council seems to be more controversial lately and this seems to make it harder to be effective than it was 10 years ago. This time around, I’m less focused onmy commercial fishing business and I really want to help solve fisheries management problems for all participants in the Gulf fisheries. I want to work to ensure that Council decisions are made with the future and equity in mind.
What’s the most important issue in our fishery right now?
I think the most important thing we can do is work to maintain and improve the Council system. The Council allows for an unprecedented amount of local representation in management decisions. This ensures the preservation of fishing access for all fishing sectors from an equitable platform. Considering the pandemic and recent conversion to virtual meetings, I want to seize this opportunity to improve the open, participatory Council regulation making process. I want to use virtual platforms to improve participation in decision making. I’ve always said, “the greater the participation, the better the decision” and I hope to work with the Council to continue striving to create better opportunities for the public to guide and influence fisheries management decisions.
Billy Broussard fills a commercial at large seat on the Council. Born and raised in coastal Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico runs in his veins. Billy has been fishing since before he can remember. He has devoted his entire life to being on or near the water, and in the times he wasn’t making a living off of commercial or charter fishing, Billy spent every free moment recreational fishing.
Billy is currently a commercial blue crabber. Essentially, he crabs in his own backyard and says he can see his house from both the start and end of his trap line. He spent a lifetime building towards his current lifestyle. Billy worked in the oilfields for years before purchasing and running Pecan Island Food Store, a general store selling tackle, bait, fuel, and food to commercial and recreational fishing boats. Owning the store allowed him the freedom to further develop his love for fishing. Billy commercial fished on and off for most of his life. At one point, he owned and operated an in-shore charter fishing business targeting mostly red drum. Now, in addition to running his commercial crabbing business, Billy works as a land manager for Vermilion Corporation selling access to land for recreational fishing purposes. In his free time, Billy likes to take multi-day trips offshore to fish recreationally.
Billy knows his way around fisheries management. In fact, he served as a Commissioner for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Billy also served on the LDWF Commission Legislative Committee, the LDWF Artificial Reef Committee, and as a voting Board Member on Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. He’s excited to take the next step into federal management with the Council.
Mr. Broussard answered the following questions to provide some insight on his perspective of the Gulf fishery:
What do you think are the most important fisheries issues being addressed by the Council?
I didn’t come to the Council with any agenda beyond my desire to do what’s right for everyone in the fishery, and for the health of the fishery itself. However, I am very interested in learning more about how to get commercial Individual Fishing Quota shares into the hands of the fishermen. I’m not totally comfortable with folks that don’t have any direct interest in, or passion for, our fishery in control of commercialfishing activities in the Gulf. I want to ensure that hard working commercial fishermen have an opportunity to control their fishery.
What drives your passion for fishing and for fisheries management?
Generally, I strive to make sure that all the fish in the Gulf will be available for my children and grandchildren to enjoy as much as I have. As a commercial and recreational fisherman, the memories of my days and nights out on the water are among my fondest, and I look forward to potentially playing a part in protecting such a valuable natural resource. At this point, my personal passion is more about being on the water itself. Like I tell my friends, I’m most at ease when I’m 100+ miles offshore with no cellphone and none of the distractions of daily life. Catching fish on those trips is a major bonus, but being on the water is what matters, it’s my happy place.