Gulf States Present Plan to Assume Control of Red Snapper from Feds

In an unprecedented move, all five Gulf states have announced an agreement for state-based management of red snapper.

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Recreational fishermen would generally welcome states taking over management of red snapper — and lengthen seasons now as short as a few days (or less).Doug Olander

Frustration over federal red snapper management has led to an unprecedented collaboration of five states asking to take management responsibility out of federal hands and give to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas the management of this species. The agreement among the states was announced today.

The recreational-fishing community hopes this will bring enough pressure to bear on Capitol Hill to encourage Congress to change the law which requires the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to manage red snapper. The Center for Coastal Conservation — in collaboration with the American Sportfishing Association, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and The Billfish Foundation — offered this release on the agreement:

Washington, D.C. – March 13, 2015 – In a move long-awaited by the recreational fishing and boating community, the directors of the state fish and wildlife agencies from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas announced an agreement for state-based management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper, which in recent years has experienced increasing privatization of this public resource and decreasing recreational fishing opportunities. The announcement was greeted with strong enthusiasm from the recreational fishing and boating community, which has supported greater state control of Gulf red snapper.

“Throughout the country, states have proven to be highly successful at fish and wildlife management in a way that conserves natural resources while allowing for reasonable public access,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “The Gulf states are among the nation’s leaders in marine fisheries management, which is why we have continued to look to them as the vehicle for managing Gulf red snapper going forward to get us out of the current mess created by federal mismanagement.”

Gulf of Mexico red snapper is presently managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, under the National Marine Fisheries Service. The states' agreement, which is predicated on transferring management authority away from the Council, describes the key elements of a plan in which the Gulf states would coordinate management of red snapper throughout the Gulf of Mexico through the proposed Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority.

“Coordinated management among the states is the only solution to an unaccountable federal system of fisheries management,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “Faced with an untenable situation, the states have risen to the challenge and collectively identified a clear path to a more balanced fishery.”

Under this management structure, each state would have authority to manage red snapper out to 200 miles off its coastline. Each state would be responsible for developing and implementing a red snapper management plan for its waters, which would be approved by the rest of the states.

“We have long pushed for the states to take over Gulf red snapper, but until now, we haven’t had a detailed plan for what state-based management would look like,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “Under this approach, we are confident that management outcomes will begin to align with the health of the resource and anglers’ access to it.”

“Gulf red snapper is incredibly important to the economy of coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico region, and attracts anglers from all across the country,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “It’s abundantly clear that the states are best equipped to manage this valuable fishery. It’s time we give them that opportunity.”