Alabama Sen. Shelby Takes Action to Address Gulf Red Snapper Fishery Mismanagement

ASA_Logo_LrgFederal funding bill includes several provisions to benefit recreational fishing

Alexandria, VA – Dec. 16, 2015 – Today’s Congressional Omnibus Appropriations bill includes several actions important to recreational fishing championed by Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).  The bill includes a number of provisions that attempt to address the ongoing Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery mismanagement that has resulted in an abbreviated ten-day season for private sector recreational anglers.

“The sportfishing industry, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico region, is grateful to Sen. Shelby for his leadership in addressing several key flaws in current Gulf red snapper management”, said Scott Gudes, vice president for Government Affairs at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “The Senator clearly understands the issues we are dealing with that are limiting anglers’ ability to get out on the water and fish, which has a direct negative impact on recreational fishing dependent businesses.”

 Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

Sen. Richard Shelby

“Fishermen and businesses across the Gulf of Mexico depend on a robust red snapper fishery, and the federal government’s mismanagement is standing in the way,” said Shelby.  “That is why I included funding and reforms in this year’s omnibus appropriations bill to tackle these challenges head-on.  I believe that my provisions will provide much-needed relief to anglers across the Gulf, and I will continue to fight for common-sense proposals that will allow for a longer, more robust red snapper season.”

“Provisions in this bill mark significant progress in addressing insufficient data collection, as well as the tendency of the federal government to ignore fisheries data submitted by universities, states and other stakeholders,” continued Gudes. “The legislation the Senator has championed will expand management responsibilities of the states, which are much better equipped to manage this fishery, by pushing state fishery management boundaries for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana out to nine miles.”

Specifically, the appropriations bill includes language that:

  • Provides $5 million for independent stock assessments for Gulf of Mexico reef fish, including red snapper.
  • Directs NOAA Fisheries to count fish on artificial reefs and offshore energy infrastructure, and incorporate those counts into future stock assessments and management decisions.
  • Urges NOAA and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to provide an increased allocation of Gulf red snapper to private sector recreational anglers should the allowable catch of red snapper increase. This would help address the historically inequitable allocation of this fishery which has limited recreational fishing opportunities and associated economic impacts.
  • Provides up to $5 million for the NOAA National Sea Grant Program to support a red snapper reward tagging study in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Increases the role of state fisheries managers in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana by expanding state waters from three to nine miles.

“The language Sen. Shelby championed in the appropriations bill is a solid step forward,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy director “By improving data collection, expanding state authority and urging a reexamination of how this fishery is allocated, Sen. Shelby’s language will begin to address the broken system for managing Gulf red snapper.

“The recreational fishing industry and our partners will continue to work with Congress to provide remedies that will allow for reasonable access to this public resource while ensuring it is conserved for the enjoyment of future generations,” concluded Leonard.