Louisiana's Proposed Red Snapper Program Criticized by Fishing Industry Trade Group

The program proposes selecting 150 offshore anglers for access to 25,000 pounds of Gulf of Mexico red snapper.

red snapper in Gulf of Mexico
Louisiana's attempt to grant more access to red snapper in federal waters receives criticism from the American Sportfishing Association.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced a two-year pilot program for Gulf of Mexico red snapper management, with hopes of combatting the shortening federal seasons for the popular saltwater species. However, the program has received criticism from one sport-fishing advocacy group for its long-term effect and the announcement's roll out.

Expected to begin in 2018, the program will randomly select 150 offshore anglers for access to 25,000 pounds of Gulf of Mexico red snapper. To participate, the anglers must agree to take part in a mandatory reporting program via smartphones.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) spoke out against the program.

"This pilot program is obviously the first step toward creating a harvest tag program for red snapper," said Mike Leonard, the ASA's conservation director. "ASA and several other organizations recently completed an extensive project working with anglers and industry members throughout the Gulf region to explore alternative management options for Gulf red snapper, including harvest tags."

The ASA's argument is that the math does not add up — and the long-term effect is either less red snapper caught per angler, or fewer red snapper anglers altogether.

"According to NOAA Fisheries, approximately 422,000 private recreational red snapper tags would be available Gulf-wide based on recent data," Leonard continued. "While no accurate estimate currently exists for the total number of Gulf reef fish anglers, it’s extremely likely that there are more Gulf reef fish anglers than available tags. Therefore, if harvest tags were implemented Gulf-wide, anglers would probably be lucky to receive a single tag for the entire year."

While the 150 anglers invited to participate would enjoy considerable access to red snapper, Leonard said, implementing the system on a larger scale "would require significantly limiting either the number of tags available per angler or the number of participating anglers. Neither is a positive management outcome."

The ASA also criticized the rollout of the program's announcement, which Leonard said in his statement was "secretive" from development to release.

"For a state that hails itself as a ‘Sportsman’s Paradise,’ we would hope the state would work with its recreational fishing community to cooperatively develop legitimate management approaches, and not attempt to force upon anglers a non-viable and controversial management approach that they strongly oppose," he added.