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Gulf states reach deal on red-snapper management

In a move long awaited by the recreational fishing and boating community, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have agreed to state-based management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper.

The directors of the state fish and wildlife agencies from those states announced their agreement on Friday. Red snapper has been facing dwindling seasons. Last year’s recreational Gulf snapper season was nine days.

The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm from the recreational fishing and boating community, which has supported greater state control of Gulf red snapper.

“Throughout the country, states have proven to be highly successful at fish and wildlife management in a way that conserves natural resources while allowing for reasonable public access,” Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers said in a statement. “The Gulf states are among the nation’s leaders in marine fisheries management, which is why we have continued to look to them as the vehicle for managing Gulf red snapper going forward to get us out of the current mess created by federal mismanagement.”

Gulf of Mexico red snapper is now managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council under the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The states’ agreement, which is predicated on transferring management authority away from the council, describes the key elements of a plan in which the Gulf states would coordinate the management of red snapper throughout the Gulf of Mexico through a proposed Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority.

“Coordinated management among the states is the only solution to an unaccountable federal system of fisheries management,” Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation president Jeff Crane said. “Faced with an untenable situation, the states have risen to the challenge and collectively identified a clear path to a more balanced fishery.”

Under this management structure, each state would have authority to manage red snapper out to 200 miles off its coastline. Each state would be responsible for developing and implementing a red snapper management plan for its waters, which would be approved by the rest of the states.

The new plan would require approval from the council, the Fisheries Service and the federal Department of Commerce.

Federal regulators cannot yet comment because they have not yet had a chance to review the proposal, Allison Garrett, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its fisheries division, said in an email Friday night, according to a report from NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) submitted a bill in January to give the Gulf states authority to manage red snapper once they agreed on a plan.

“We have long pushed for the states to take over Gulf red snapper, but until now we haven’t had a detailed plan for what state-based management would look like,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “Under this approach, we are confident that management outcomes will begin to align with the health of the resource and anglers’ access to it.”

“Gulf red snapper is incredibly important to the economy of coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico region, and attracts anglers from all across the country,” American Sportfishing Association president and CEO Mike Nussman said. “It’s abundantly clear that the states are best equipped to manage this valuable fishery. It’s time we give them that opportunity.”

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