Courtesy James Hall
Proposed federal regulations governing red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are once again a hot potato issue in marine fisheries management. This time around, nearly 40 Southern state legislators have banded together to protest new federal snapper restrictions that could be imposed on states, according to a report from Center Square.
Proposed new federal guidelines could increase the use of snapper in states like Louisiana and Florida, while reducing snapper restrictions in other states like Alabama and Mississippi, the report said.
In late July, dozens of Southern members of Congress signed a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, asking her to have the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) update the science used to determine Gulf red snapper harvests. Members of Congress argue that NOAA’s proposed rule reduces red snapper catches by anglers in the state, while the red snapper population remains sustainable.
This point, made in Congress’ letter to Raimondo, is based on a study of snapper fishing in the Gulf States called “The Big Red Snapper Count.” This independent study (required by Congress) proposes raising the federal redfish limit because it shows that more snapper are available than the NMFS believes. However, the proposed federal catch quota for red snapper has increased slightly.
Lawmakers believe the NMFS ignored new data in the big red snapper counts, reducing the catch limit from 97 percent of the sustainable limit to about 60 percent, Center Square reported. Big red snapper counts revealed three times the number of fish previously identified by NMFS.
“By requiring states to calibrate their more accurate and NMFS-certified (red snapper) catch data to the outdated and fundamentally flawed MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program), NMFS has failed to find an effective solution,” the congressman’s letter said. , and fail to make decisions based on the best available science, while refusing to properly integrate new data.”
In late August, the Federal Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Board took action to revise red snapper fishing limits. The Council chose to reduce overfishing limits and increase acceptable biological catches, annual catch limits and annual catch targets. All of this is done based on snapper population data from the Big Red Snapper Count.
The Gulf Council’s opinion on red snapper fishing restrictions has been forwarded to the Secretary of Commerce for approval and implementation.
What this will actually do for bay anglers targeting red snapper is unclear, with regard to season dates, catches and size limits.