Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1072, authored by Rep. Casey Eure (Biloxi) that extends Mississippi's territorial waters in the Gulf of Mexico by more than seven miles in a move related to the growing turmoil surrounding federal management of red snapper. With the bill's passage, Mississippi becomes the fourth Gulf state to take some form of unilateral action to gain greater control over coastal waters as confusion mounts over federal fisheries management.
"It's unfortunate that Mississippi had to take this kind of action, but it's a reflection of the tremendous frustration felt by all the Gulf states over federal management of fisheries, particularly red snapper," said Johnny Marquez, Executive Director of CCA Mississippi.
Federal management of red snapper reached a new low in 2013 when the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced a 27-day season, even though the snapper population appears to be booming. That decision set off an ever-widening ripple of repercussions as Louisiana and Florida announced intentions to join Texas' long-standing rejection of federal regulations in state waters. Louisiana had already announced in 2012 that it would unilaterally extend its state waters from three miles offshore to approximately 10.357 miles in response to tighter and tighter fisheries regulations in federal waters. The extension of Louisiana's boundaries set off alarm bells in Mississippi as waters that had previously been under federal jurisdiction would then presumably be under Louisiana jurisdiction with uncertain consequences.
"There is a lot of confusion right now and it doesn't look like it is going to improve any time soon. We really need a new vision for fisheries management in the Gulf, and yet there is no hint of willingness from NOAA Fisheries to deviate from its present, unsatisfactory course," said Marquez. "Our members simply do not believe that federal fishery managers have their interests in mind so we appreciate Gov. Bryant, Senator Brice Wiggins, Representative Casey Eure and all of our legislators for their efforts on behalf of Mississippi's recreational fishing community.
– Source: CCA Mississippi