By Chris Horton, Senior Fisheries Program Director
On April 18, NOAA Fisheries issued notice that the 2018 and 2019 Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season for private recreational anglers and state charter vessels, in both state and federal waters would be set by the individual Gulf States through the recently approved Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP’s).
The 2018 fishing season for the federally permitted for-hire component will be 51 days in the Gulf’s federal waters and will remain under federal management.
The ability for the states to set their own private recreational season, in both state and federal waters, represents a significant shift in the management approach for the Gulf recreational red snapper fishery.
“We’re grateful for the Department of Commerce’s partnership with the states in an effort to find solutions for recreational anglers,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton. “These EFPs are much needed relief from the burden of a federal management system that was designed primarily for commercial fisheries, which clearly was not working for red snapper in the Gulf. The states have decades of successful management experience of both the commercial and recreational sectors, but equally important, they also have the inherent trust of recreational anglers necessary to make this new management approach successful.”
As the red snapper population continues to increase in both size and abundance, NOAA’s projected private recreational red snapper seasons have become increasingly shorter because of the inefficiencies and uncertainty of the federal angler harvest data collection efforts, known as the Marine Recreational Information Program. These EFPs will allow states to set and monitor their seasons for the next two years based on their recently developed, more accurate and timelier angler harvest data collection programs.
While the overall Gulf quota for red snapper is 3.8 million pounds, each state will be managing to an agreed upon portion of the overall quota for their state and must close the season when their portion is reached, or if the overall Gulf quota is exceeded by another state or combination of states.
A major advantage of the new season-setting structure is the ability for the states to tailor their seasons based on input from their anglers on what works best for them. The following is a summary of how each state plans to implement their red snapper recreational seasons in 2018 and 2019:
- Alabama: 47-day season which will be weekends only, with the exception of the entire week of July 4 and Labor Day, beginning on June 1
- Florida: 40-day season beginning on June 11
- Louisiana: the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will meet on May 3 to set season dates for their 743,000 lbs. of available quota
- Mississippi: Season to run from May 25 to September 3, with a possible closure July 9-22 if harvest is higher than expected early in the season
- Texas: Projects 82-day season beginning June 1
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