Time to Land State-based Red Snapper Management for the Future

The National Marine Fisheries Service is currently accepting comments on the proposed final rule for Amendments 50A-F to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, these amendments would provide for permanent state management of the private recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation recently submitted comments in strong support of their approval.

Prior to the temporary implementation of exempted fishing permits (EFP’s) that allowed the states to manage their own private recreational quota, the federal red snapper season was initially set as short as three days in 2017. However, beginning in 2018, the states entered into an agreement with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries to try two years of an experimental season under EFP’s whereby the individual states could set their own season lengths and dates, so long as they stayed at or under their individual state’s allocation of the Gulf-wide quota.

During this year’s Gulf red snapper season, some states closed early because good weather in the initial weeks of the season allowed anglers to get offshore more and catch their quota quickly. States that had bad weather early on were able to extend their seasons and ensure their anglers had an equal opportunity to access red snapper. The key to state management has been the development of individual state harvest data collection programs that are more real time and accurate than the federal Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP).

This new system of management has proven very successful for Gulf red snapper anglers. However, the EFP’s expire this year. Fortunately, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved Amendments 50A-F that will permanently extend state management of the Gulf red snapper fishery. Comments on the final approval of the proposed rule for state-based management are due October 7.

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