Private Recreational Red Snapper Anglers in the Gulf of Mexico Get Long-Awaited Victory in Final Rule

On February 5,  NOAA Fisheries announced the Final Rule to Implement State Management of Private Angling for Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) following two years of a highly successful exempted fishing permit (EFP) that allowed the individual states to manage their portion of the private recreational red snapper quota.

"A final rule for state-based management is truly a win for the recreational fishing community in the Gulf," said Chris Horton, CSF Senior Director of Fisheries Policy. "It was only a few years ago that CSF and other angling organizations encouraged the states and Members of Congress to find a way to reverse the downward spiral of shrinking red snapper seasons, despite the healthiest population of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico in decades."

The final rule was the result of many years of pressure from the recreational angling community to make a significant change to a management model that was not working for the recreational sector. In 2015, Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) Member Congressman Garret Graves introduced the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act that would have given management authority for the red snapper fishery to the states. The bill garnered the support of 42 bipartisan cosponsors. In 2017, following the announcement of a red snapper season that would last just three days, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross provided relief for recreational anglers by extending the season to 39 days. In 2018 and 2019, NOAA Fisheries approved the EFP's that allowed for the states to manage their portion of the recreational red snapper Gulf-wide quota off their shores. The success of the EFP's is largely attributed to the more accurate state harvest data collection programs that allow anglers the maximum opportunity to access red snapper while staying under their quota. During the two years under the EFP's, the states, supported by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF), partners and anglers across the Gulf, worked on Amendment 50 to the reef fish management plan that led to the final rule.

"We knew from the beginning that the states were much better positioned to manage this fishery," said Horton. "They've done a fantastic job with red snapper in the last two years, and it's time to look at shifting management of other important recreational fisheries from federal management to the states. In fact, I made that case before the Gulf Council concerning greater amberjack just last week."

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