House panel rejects Gulf state red-snapper plan

An amendment that would have transferred management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper to the five Gulf states was rejected Thursday.
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An amendment that would have transferred management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper to the five Gulf states was rejected Thursday by the House Natural Resources Committee.

Proposed by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., the amendment would have modeled red snapper management after a similar plan established in 1984 to regulate Atlantic Ocean striped bass, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The measure was endorsed by the nation's largest recreational-fishing advocacy groups, including the Coastal Conservation Association and the American Sportfishing Association, and it was requested by the directors of the fisheries agencies of all five Gulf states.

The amendment failed 22-16, according to the Times-Picayune. Louisiana has two representatives on the committee, Graves and Rep. John Fleming. Fleming abstained from the vote.

Red snapper management has become a hot issue in recent years as stocks recover at the same time that recreational anglers' seasons are being clipped to the shortest duration in history. The Federal Register will announce Friday that recreational anglers will have only 10 days to fish red snapper in federal waters this year.

Jeff Angers, executive director of the Center for Coastal Conservation, said anglers can take some positives out of the discussion that preceded the rejection of Graves' amendment.

"I'm disappointed that the vote didn't go our way, but there is something that did go our way," Angers said. "There seemed to be, on both sides of the aisle, unanimity in the committee that the system is broken. While that committee didn't rectify it, the first step to solving any problem is identifying it.

"Converting an idea, like the five state directors had, into an act of Congress is going to take a lot of work."

The amendment was proposed as part of a bill to change the language of the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which provides broad guidelines for the nation's fisheries. The overall bill passed the committee by a 21-14 vote.

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