Gulf States One Step Closer to Management of Recreational Gulf Red Snapper

The 2018 Gulf of Mexico private recreational red snapper season was the first season deemed a success by the recreational fishing community in recent years.

Last year, the states - not the federal government - were allowed to manage the recreational red snapper fishery under exempted fishing permits (EFPs). However, EFPs are temporary, and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) is working quickly toward an amendment to the reef fish management plan that would permanently extend state management of the recreational red snapper fishery.

Draft Amendment 50 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources proposes to give the states the authority to manage the recreational red snapper fishery in both state and federal waters. These decisions are based on state-specific harvest quotas using their own tailored red snapper landings data reporting programs, while also allowing the flexibility for each state to set season dates and lengths to accommodate their recreational anglers.

While the amendment enjoys broad support in general, one of the most contentious action items the Gulf Council must decide is whether to include the charter/for-hire (CFH) component of the recreational sector under state management, leave CFH under federal management, or allow for states to choose whether they manage only private anglers or both private anglers and the CFH.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) recently submitted comments in favor of Action 1, Alternative 4, which would allow states to choose if they wanted to manage only private anglers or both the private and CFH components of the recreational sector. The success of the state-management EFPs have demonstrated that the states are capable of providing longer access to red snapper in Gulf waters while continuing to constrain harvest to appropriate levels.  Providing the CFH fleet the opportunity to be managed by their state will likely result in more days on the water for anglers who do not own a boat than the current federal CFH season, and also the flexibility to set CFH seasons at times of the year that are more profitable for each state’s CFH fleet.

The Gulf Council has been hosting a series of hearings around the Gulf Coast to gather public input on Amendment 50, and the Gulf Council is expected to take up the measure at the January 28-31 meeting in Orange Beach, Alabama. There will be a webinar on Amendment 50 on January 17, and comments from the general public will be accepted through 5pm on January 22.

For more information on Amendment 50, the remaining public hearing dates and locations or to submit comments, visit the Gulf Council website.

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