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House panel approves bill to shift red-snapper management to states

The House Natural Resources Committee has passed a bipartisan bill that would move the management of red snapper in Gulf states from federal oversight to the states.

The Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act (H.R. 3094) also requires approval from the full House and Senate and President Obama’s signature.

"Once it becomes law, the mechanism in the bill for the transfer of management authority is very simple: Once the states agree on their management plan, then the responsibility moves to the states,” Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, told Trade Only Today.

The CCC is one of several groups that have worked to change the way red snapper is regulated for recreational anglers. This year’s red snapper fishing season was nine days.

Angers said he hopes the current administration will pass the bill.

“The House has stepped up on challenging fisheries issues already this Congress. They passed the bill to fix [the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act] last year, so the leadership is surely up to the challenge,” Angers said.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act regulates saltwater fish stocks. The law has long lumped commercial fishing in with recreational fishing. Recreational fishing and boating stakeholders have been trying to change that in recent years.

“The current federal model is clearly not working, and it’s time for a more balanced approach to the management of this fishery,” Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said in a statement.

In light of the inability of the federal data collection system to accurately measure the recreational angler harvest, all five Gulf states have implemented their own systems of angler data collection.

These new programs, combined with their existing sampling procedures of the red snapper population itself, will position the states well to assume the new management responsibility.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., and with the support of 42 bipartisan co- sponsors, H.R. 3094 offers a state-based solution to ensure America’s anglers have more than just nine days to access what the CCC says is the healthiest population of Gulf red snapper in history.

“Chairman Bishop and Rep. Graves, in particular, are to be commended for the leadership in working to fundamentally address the Gulf red snapper challenge,” Angers said, referring to U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.

“Anglers and the businesses they support deserve better than the current system is providing, and the states have proven their ability to manage fisheries in a way that is sustainable and provides reasonable fishing opportunities,” Angers added.

“The Natural Resources Committee’s overwhelming bipartisan passage of H.R. 3094 is clear validation of what we have argued over the years: Federal management has failed recreational fishermen,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association.

“The fact that you have members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, from across the nation supporting this legislation shows that this fishery needs state-based innovation that this bill will provide.”

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