An op-ed in the Washington, D.C., political newspaper The Hill is asking Congress to move Gulf region red snapper oversight from the federal level and assign the responsibility to the states.
In a letter titled, “Let families fish, and not just this weekend,” Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers said the snapper recovery has outpaced National Marine Fisheries Service expectations.
“Yet despite this bounty, families that want to take the kids fishing for red snapper in the Gulf had better hope for good weather on Saturday and Sunday: it is the only weekend you will be able to do so this year,” Angers wrote.
This year’s red snapper season in the Gulf is 10 days long.
“The recently House-passed reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, America’s primary vehicle for fisheries management, promises to modernize the process, making it more responsive to the growing number of recreational anglers and the multibillion-dollar economic contribution they make,” Angers wrote.
“What’s needed is a fisheries management system that is responsive to all stakeholders — not just the commercial industry, but the growing recreational component as well,” he wrote, adding that Americans spend $27 billion on tackle and related goods and services annually, supporting more than 450,000 jobs.
The fish and wildlife agencies of the five Gulf states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — have offered to accept responsibility for the management of red snapper in the federal waters off their shores, Angers said.
The five Gulf states are already responsible for managing commercial and recreational fisheries in their own waters and they cooperatively share management for several species with other states.
“They have proven themselves responsible and successful stewards of both state and federally managed species,” Angers wrote.
The House also approved legislation Thursday that would stop federal regulators from distinguishing between charter fishermen and private anglers when considering red snapper allocation in the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to defunding sector separation, the amendment prohibits the use of funds to enact any red snapper management measure that would allow an annual catch limit for red snapper resulting in the commercial red snapper fishing season lasting longer than five times the number of days allowed for recreational fishing.