The marine industry offered widespread support for a plan under which the Gulf states would manage their red snapper populations 200 miles offshore, as opposed to the federal management that the species has faced to this point.
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.
Gulf of Mexico red snapper is now managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.
“Anyone who fishes in the Gulf will tell you the red snapper fishery is abundant, yet our recreational customers have just a few days a year when they can fish for them,” Yamaha Marine Group president and Center for Coastal Conservation board member Ben Speciale said in an email to Trade Only Today.
“The Gulf states are in agreement on a viable solution: a plan for state management,” Speciale said. “Going forward, the Gulf states, our coalition of recreational conservation groups led by the Center for Coastal Conservation and the industry need to be sure this plan is accepted by NOAA and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The plan must become reality.”
The directors of the state fish and wildlife agencies from the five Gulf states announced their agreement on Friday. Red snapper has been facing dwindling seasons. Last year’s recreational Gulf snapper season was only nine days long.
In a March 13 letter to federal authorities, the states outlined a plan to shift the management to states.
"The Gulf states are making it crystal clear that they have no confidence in the GMFMC's ability to manage red snapper in a fair and equitable manner," Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said in a statement. "Our Gulf chapters have been working diligently to bring about change within the council system, only to have their efforts thwarted by an organization that is under the control of an entrenched group of individuals associated with environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund."
The proposed change in management from the national to a more regional approach is intended to provide a boost to recreational fishing and boating in the area, according to Mercury Marine, which also supports the move.
The states’ agreement describes a plan under which they would coordinate the management of red snapper throughout the Gulf of Mexico through an independent body called the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority.
“Effective red snapper fisheries management is extremely important to both conservation and the marine industry,” Mercury Marine president John Pfeifer said in a statement. “Giving each state the responsibility for all management of red snapper in their respective state and adjacent federal waters is not only the right thing to do, but it's also the most effective way to do it well."