NOAA Fisheries has approved exempted fishing permit applications by the five Gulf states that will allow each state to manage the recreational red snapper fishing season for private anglers in its respective state and federal waters for 2018 and 2019.
Recreational anglers and industry stakeholders are applauding this decision by NOAA Fisheries within the U.S. Department of Commerce and anticipate the Gulf states will finally be able to prove their effectiveness in managing red snapper off their coasts.
“We owe a great deal of thanks to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for his resolve in finding a solution to the red snapper management mess in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a huge step forward for recreational anglers,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “We are delighted to see a new level of cooperation between state and federal fishery managers and a respect for recreational fisheries at the federal level like we have never seen before.”
Angers thanked the leaders from the five Gulf states’ marine resource agencies and commissions for working together to submit these applications for state management of red snapper.
“We are confident the states will responsibly manage this valuable natural resource with participation from anglers who are eager to see a more responsive management system,” Angers said.
Under the jurisdiction of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries, the Gulf red snapper has become the epitome of the difficulty in managing recreational anglers under today’s federal fisheries management system.
Over the last decade, what was once a six-month red snapper season with a four-fish bag limit for recreational anglers was reduced to a historically low three-day season with a two-fish bag limit in 2017, despite data showing a healthier fish stock.
That three-day federal season ran from June 1 to June 3. On June 14, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would extend the 2017 recreational red snapper season by 39 weekend days in the Gulf of Mexico for private recreational anglers.
With the understanding that the 2017 extension was a short-term fix, members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department worked together to develop a path toward a more permanent solution to the problems plaguing the recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf.
What this means for recreational anglers:
- In 2018 and 2019, each of the five Gulf states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida) will establish recreational fishing seasons for red snapper in its waters, including federal waters;
- Licensed recreational anglers – fishing from private vessels, not charter-for-hire vessels – will be exempt from federal red snapper regulations and will be subject to fishing regulations set by each state;
- Each state will monitor red snapper landings by private recreational anglers and close their season if its assigned quota is reached or expected to be reached;
- Recreational anglers are reminded to participate with their state’s data collection methods to ensure the best information is available for state fisheries managers. Anglers need to do their part in providing complete and accurate information through the states’ enhanced data collection systems so that the resource is responsibly managed.