Hearing in House Resources subcommittee on Oceans Shows States are “Ready, Willing and Able” to Assume Red Snapper Management
A coalition of organizations representing the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community applauded the House Resources subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans for its hearing on H.R. 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act. The bill, sponsored by Congressman Garret Graves (R-La.) and 28 bi-partisan co-sponsors, will grant legal recognition to the plan adopted by the Fish and Wildlife agencies of all five Gulf states to assume management of the Gulf red snapper in federal waters.
“The five Gulf states demonstrated once again that they are prepared to take over management of the fishery in a more responsible way,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “The states are already using state-of-the-art monitoring methods that will enable them to ensure the sustainability of the snapper fishery and enable every sector of the fishing community to equitably share in the harvest. Congress should act quickly to pass this important measure that will give legal recognition to the historic cooperative agreement by the Fish and Wildlife agencies of the five Gulf states – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — to assume management of Gulf red snapper.”
Testimony at the hearing drew a stark line between those reaping financial benefits of federal management and angling families who have found their seasons continually shortened despite the largest population of red snapper in modern times.
“The management agency for every Gulf state has come to the same conclusion – federal management of red snapper is a failure,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton. “We are grateful to Rep. Graves for not only identifying the fundamental problem, but also working with the states to craft the necessary solution. His legislation gives hope to hundreds of thousands of people who have lost all confidence in the federal management process.”
Congressman Graves received letters of support for H.R.3094 from all five Gulf states prior to the hearing, each expressing concern over the federal government’s dramatic departure from established wildlife resource management practices.
“With the federal government now focused on private ownership programs for industrial harvesters and the charter/for-hire sector, the ability of recreational anglers to be a part of the process is being eliminated,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “These privatization programs have completely altered the landscape of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, where proceedings are now dominated by businesses. We aren’t talking about eliminating the commercial fishery; we only want to ensure that if recreational anglers want to go snapper fishing with their family in their own boats, they have an opportunity to do that.”
The Recreational Saltwater Fishing Coalition includes American Sportfishing Association, The Billfish Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Excerpts from letters of support from the state fish and wildlife management agencies:
“As such, we are especially troubled with the current management of Gulf red snapper, namely management of the recreational fishery, as it continues to face challenges due to inadequate data, and an inflexible unresponsive management framework.” – Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
“Unfortunately, fishing for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming more and more challenging for all parties involved because of the manner in which red snapper is being managed. This uncertainty and challenging environment is leading to increasingly more dissatisfaction for all.” – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
“Recent history has demonstrated that management of red snapper fishing in federal waters has been uncertain, arbitrary, and has not been based upon sound science. There can be little question that the current system has failed and caused significant dissatisfaction among red snapper anglers.” – Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
“Red snapper is one of the most valuable recreational and commercial fisheries to the State of Alabama. Even though Alabama has less than 5% of the Gulf of Mexico coastline, more than 30% of all red snapper caught in the Gulf of Mexico are landed in Alabama. The management of this most sought after species is of the utmost importance to our State. We have worked diligently through the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service to sustainably manage red snapper. However, the current federal management system is not working.” – Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
“The federal data collection methods currently being utilized, as well as the red snapper stock assessments and management strategies, have resulted in shorter and shorter seasons at the time when our state scientists and fisheries managers believe the stock is recovered and growing. I am confident the five Gulf States have the ability to provide the data collection and assessments needed to manage this fishery and improve access for anglers while maintaining a viable commercial red snapper fishery.” – Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
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?