Recently at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Gulf Angler Focus Group (GAFG) presented a summary of its newly released report, which explores alternative management options for the recreational red snapper fishery. With only an 11-day federal season in 2016, management of this important recreational fishery has become increasingly contentious and has resulted in high angler dissatisfaction.
Rather than relying on the Council alone to develop new management options, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), along with American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, began organizing the GAFG initiative over a year ago to try and capture a cross-section of recreational perspectives along the entire Gulf Coast. The purpose was to explore any potential alternative management options to increase the number of days anglers have access to red snapper in federal waters, given the confines of existing statute (the Magnuson-Stevens Act) and the Council process. The GAFG met every other month with representatives from angler organizations, unaffiliated private anglers, for-hire operators and recreational fishing industry members, in consultation with all five state fisheries managers from the Gulf region, as well as the Southeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The final report, Examination of Possible Private Recreational Management Options for Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper, is intended to provide fisheries managers with an objective review of possible alternatives for managing the fishery. While some options may have potential to improve fishing access more than others, none appear to be an all-encompassing solution, and some may not be acceptable or practical for the majority of private recreational anglers.
The Council’s newly formed Ad Hoc Red Snapper Private Angler Advisory Panel will be provided with the report findings as they begin deliberations on potential Council actions to address the short recreational red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico.
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