On May 25, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced a controversial two-year pilot program for red snapper management within the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposal, slated to begin in 2018, would allow LDWF to implement an exempted fishing permit for a randomly-selected group of 150 offshore recreational anglers that would be allocated 25,000 pounds of the recreational red snapper quota; these exempted fishing permit holders would be allowed to fish outside of any state or federal season. The program is expected to be a major point of discussion at the upcoming Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in June.
With ever-shortening red snapper seasons in federal waters and the recent announcement of a three-day 2017 federal season for red snapper, the program is intended to be an innovative and timely way of producing state-based, real-time data using smart-phone technology while also allowing anglers to harvest red snapper whenever they choose.
However intended, the program itself unfortunately is yet another example of limiting access to the public-trust resource of red snapper. Similar to the commercial sector’s individual fishing quota, this program essentially gifts a portion of the allowable catch to a select few while alienating the vast majority of recreational anglers.
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton noted, “Recreational anglers continue to be squeezed further out of this fishery threating the substantial economic impact they provide. It’s untenable that a state agency would move forward with any proposal that would ultimately reduce angler effort for the robust red snapper fishery”.
CSF, along with our fisheries-conservation partners, continue to work with the Gulf States and Members of Congress to find potential ways to alleviate the obstacles for recreational fishing within the current system of federal mismanagement.
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