On April 4, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council officially approved Amendment 50 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources, which will give the states the authority to manage the private recreational red snapper fishery in both state and federal waters beginning with the 2020 fishing season. The ability for the states to set their own private recreational season represents a significant shift in the management approach for the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishery.
“This is a significant, positive step for Gulf red snapper anglers that has been a long time in the making,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton. “As a Gulf red snapper angler myself, it’s reassuring to have management of this important recreational fishery in the hands of those who better understand recreational anglers.”
The Gulf red snapper fishery has become increasingly contentious in recent years under federal management. As the red snapper population continues to increase, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) projected private recreational red snapper seasons have become increasingly shorter. This is because of the inefficiencies and uncertainty of the federal angler harvest data collection efforts, known as the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). As a result, the five Gulf States began developing their own angler harvest data programs.
These programs were put to the test in 2018 under an exempted fishing permit (EFP) that allowed the Gulf States to set their own seasons and monitor their harvest using their recently developed, more accurate and timelier angler harvest data collection programs. Each state was apportioned a percentage of the overall private recreational Gulf red snapper quotas, and while there was an overage in Florida and a slight overage in Alabama, the state seasons proved more successful than federal management at regulating the recreation harvest of red snapper while providing more days of fishing in federal waters.
2019 will be the second and final year of the state management EFPs, making it imperative that the Gulf Council pass Amendment 50 this spring in order to ensure the states can continue to manage their own private recreational red snapper season in 2020 and beyond.
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