Gulf Council Votes to Allow Permanent State Management of Private Recreational Red Snapper Seasons

Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Now Approved to Manage Gulf Red Snapper for Anglers Long-Term in State and Federal Waters

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Keep Florida Fishing® (KFF), an advocacy arm of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), today praised action taken by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) last week related to ‘Reef Fish Amendment 50: State Management for Recreational Red Snapper.’ The vote delegates management authority of the private angling component for recreational red snapper fishing in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas federal waters from the Council to those states.

“Approval of the state management amendment is the culmination of a multi-year, dedicated effort by ASA, partner organizations, state agencies and Congress to put the Gulf states in the driver’s seat for managing private recreational anglers,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s vice president of Government Affairs. “After years of decreasing fishing seasons despite a rebuilding red snapper stock, it was clear that the status quo federal management approach was broken. Allowing the states to set regulations and use their superior angler harvest surveys will provide more equitable access, benefitting the recreational fishing industry for years to come.”

Last year, NOAA Fisheries issued exempted fishing permits allowing each of the five Gulf States to set their own season for red snapper in state and federal waters during 2018 and 2019.  Because of the success of the 2018 seasons, which provided 40 days of fishing in Florida, the Council began working towards a long-term solution for state management of private anglers.

“On behalf of Keep Florida Fishing, representing more than four million anglers, we thank the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the other Gulf states, the Council and NOAA Fisheries for working together to develop a workable long-term solution for recreational red snapper fishing,” said Kellie Ralston, ASA’s Southeast Fisheries Policy Director. “The exempted fishing permits that expanded access for anglers by allowing each Gulf state to set their own season for red snapper in state and federal waters have been a huge success. We appreciate the Council making this pilot project permanent by taking final action on Reef Fish Amendment 50.”

Ralston continued, “This major shift in federal management would not have been possible without the enduring support of the Gulf states and their development of new recreational data collection platforms, including the Gulf Reef Fish Survey by the FWC.  We are also grateful for the leadership of Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, along with NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator, Chris Oliver, and the Gulf Congressional delegation who continued to push to make this change a reality.”

Under Reef Fish Amendment 50, each state will be allocated the portion of the recreational quota it initially requested in the 2018-2019 exempted fishing permit application, with the remaining 3.78% distributed between Florida and Alabama. Those values are as follows:

Alabama           Florida              Louisiana         Mississippi                    Texas

26.298%           44.822%           19.120%           3.550%                          6.210%

In addition, states will set bag limits, and minimum (within 14-18 inches) and maximum size limits.

These suggested management changes will be transmitted to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval and implementation prior to the 2020 private recreational red snapper season.