Red Snapper Amendment a “Game Changer”

An amendment to the federal omnibus spending bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby could have a far-reaching impact on Gulf recreational fishing.

That the U.S. House and Senate reached agreement Wednesday evening on a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill is not only good news for the nation — but also offers hope to Gulf of Mexico recreational anglers and the recreational-fishing industry caught in the morass of red snapper management.

That’s thanks to a series of provisions in an amendment included in the bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R -Ala), that address Gulf snapper management.

"It's a game changer," says Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. The measure, he says, "takes major steps forward in correcting federal mismanagement of red snapper."

Provisions in the amendment direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund agency-independent stock assessments for Gulf reef fish, including red snapper. One important change would direct population assessment to count fish around artificial reefs and offshore oil structures which, Angers says, should “produce a more accurate and robust population count” and increase anglers’ allocation.

The amendment would also expand the management responsibilities of coastal states and expand state-fishery management boundaries for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana from three to nine miles offshore.

If the spending bill is approved, “this measure is sure to get more recreational anglers out on the water — a good thing for us and a good thing for the economy of coastal communities along the entire Gulf,” Angers says.

The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the measure Friday.