Following a joint letter to the U.S. House and Senate leadership from four Gulf-state governors stating that federal management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper is “irretrievably broken,” the bipartisan Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act was filed Sept. 12.
The entire leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has signed onto the bill — championed by representatives Jeff Miller (R-Fla) and Cedric Richmond (D-La) — which moves more management authority from the hands of federal to state agencies.
“Federal management of red snapper has painted itself into a corner,” says Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers. “We have a robust red snapper population in the Gulf, but 2013 was as chaotic a season as anglers have ever seen. The season started as the shortest ever, saw a revolt by some states that resulted in even shorter seasons, endured a lawsuit, received a glowing stock assessment and the promise of a fall season, only to crash on wild estimates of overharvest that put the fall season in jeopardy.
“This is no way to manage a fishery, and this legislation presents a way out of this no-win situation,” Angers says.
The Red Snapper Conservation Act would establish a coordinated Gulf-states partnership for managing the species; states would comply with a management plan approved/adopted by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. That would be similar to how the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has successfully managed striped bass, Angers says.
“There are many examples where a shift to state-based management of a given fishery resource has been called for, producing better results,” says Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association, part of the coalition backing this legislation.
Other NGOs supporting the bill include the Coastal Conservation Association, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the International Game Fish Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.