Gulf Red Snapper – Frequently Asked Questions
What is the controversy regarding Gulf Red Snapper?
There are 3 million saltwater fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico, and red snapper is one of the most sought-after sport fish in state and federal waters of the Gulf. Even though the Gulf red snapper population is healthier than it has been in decades, federal fisheries managers continue to reduce recreational fishing seasons, resulting in an all-time low of just 9 days in 2016. The quality of data used in determining catch limits has come into question.
Who manages the Gulf red snapper fishery?
Gulf red snapper up to 3 or 9 miles off the coast are managed by the state fish agency. The territory of state waters vary. Texas and Florida have jurisdiction out to 9 miles. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama control out to 3 miles. From either distance up to 200 miles off the coast is managed by the federal government through the marine fisheries agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
What is reallocation?
NOAA requires periodic review of how the total annual catch of red snapper is divided up between fishing sectors. The Gulf’s previous red snapper allocation (49% recreational, 51% commercial) had been in place since the mid-1980s and was therefore outdated. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council was being urged by NOAA and legislators to make updates. In August 2015, the Council took final action on allocation for 2016-2017 (Amendment 28), setting the new values at 48.5% commercial and 51.5% recreational.
What is sector separation?
Sector separation divides the recreational red snapper quota between individual recreational fishermen and charter/for-hire captains. In doing so, it creates serious conflicts between stakeholders and further diminishes recreational fishing opportunities for red snapper. It also has a significant financial impact on the coastal communities and businesses throughout the Gulf region that support recreational fishing.
The Gulf Council approved sector separation (Amendment 40) in October 2014 and it is scheduled to take effect for up to three years. Amendment 45 was approved by the Council in June 2016 and extends sector separation for red snapper an additional five years to Dec 2022.
Is there a solution to the controversy?
The five Gulf states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida) have agreed on a path forward for state-based management of Gulf red snapper. The announcement was greeted with strong enthusiasm from the recreational fishing community, which has supported greater state control of Gulf red snapper. In 2015, legislation was introduced in Congress to enact the states’ plan. The Gulf State Red Snapper Management Authority Act will extend formal federal recognition to the historic agreement between the chief fish and wildlife officials of all five Gulf States to accept joint responsibility for management of the red snapper fishery in federal waters. 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.