On October 22, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton joined eight panelists to testify before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans on the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act (H.R. 3094).
Introduced in July by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Congressmen Garret Graves (LA) and Jeff Miller (FL), along with CSC House leadership, H.R. 3094 would extend formal federal recognition to the historic agreement between the chief fish and wildlife officials of all five Gulf States to accept joint responsibility for management of the red snapper fishery in federal waters.
The first panel included: Robert Barham, Secretary of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Dr. Alan Risenhoover, Director of the Office of Sustainable Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries; and Nick Wiley, Executive Director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In addition to Horton, the second panel included: Haley Bitterman, Corporate Executive Chef/Director of Operations of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group; David Cresson, Executive Director/CEO of Coastal Conservation Association; Jason De La Cruz, President/COO of Wild Seafood, Inc.; Captain Gary Jarvis, Owner of Back Down 2 Charters; and Bob Zales, President of National Association of Charterboat Operators.
Horton, who serves on the Recreational Fisheries Working Group of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, discussed the importance of this bill to anglers in the Gulf, as well as to better general management of the species. Currently under the authority of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, Horton recognized that while the current management system “seems to work for the commercial sector, it ultimately penalizes recreational anglers for a rebuilding, and possibly even rebuilt, fishery.” In 2013, the federal red snapper recreational fishing season was 42 days, and this year, the season was shortened to 10 days, despite the healthiest population of red snapper on record.
Wiley shared his support for state red snapper management. “It is clear that our red snapper management system needs major changes to better balance management flexibility with strong conservation measures. [H.R. 3094] would do precisely this by transferring management authority to the Gulf States and by providing a robust framework for continuing the rebuilding of red snapper stocks while providing more acceptable access to red snapper fishing,” said Wiley. “The Gulf States are well qualified to manage red snapper because they have a track record of successful conservation and management of state fisheries.
“Current requirements of the MSA are overly restrictive and require arbitrary rebuilding times based on no science and do not allow any flexibility in management. Flexibility in management must be allowed which is why we fully support and encourage the passage of H.R. 3094,” said Zales. He added, “In the Gulf of Mexico, when you put a baited hook in the water, odds are you will catch a red snapper.”
With the passage of H.R. 3094, states will have the authority to manage red snapper populations at a more localized level, using a model that manages for a healthy population and a robust fishery in order to optimize access for both commercial and recreational fishermen.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?