The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a 44-day recreational red snapper season for Gulf of Mexico state waters at its meeting April 17 in Tallahassee. State waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles in Gulf waters.This season will start June 1 and end July 14. It is inconsistent with the current proposed federal season.Federal fishery managers recently passed a rule that grants NOAA Fisheries the authority to shorten the federal recreational red snapper season off states that adopt inconsistent red snapper regulations. The current estimate of the recreational red snapper season is 21 days in federal waters off the Gulf coast of Florida.While the federal limit for how many pounds of red snapper can be caught has increased, the season length has gotten shorter over the past few years because of more fishing effort and larger fish, according to federal fishery managers.The Commission chose to go inconsistent based on reports that the upcoming federal stock assessment would likely show red snapper populations are doing better than previously thought and reports from anglers that the fishery is improving.For more on the proposal that was given to the Commission, visit MyFWC.com/Commission.
On March 25, 2013, a temporary emergency rule willpublish in the Federal Register that gives NOAA Fisheries the authority to set separate closure dates forthe recreational red snapper season in federal waters off individual Gulf of Mexico states. The closure dates willdepend on whether state regulations are consistent with federal regulations for the recreational red snapper season length or bag limit. This action was requested by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council at their February meeting to provide a fairer and more equitable distribution of recreational red snapper fishing opportunities among anglers in all the Gulf of Mexicostates.The federal recreational season for Gulf of Mexico red snapper begins June 1 each year with a 2-fish bag limit. The length of the season is determined by the amount of the quota, the average weight of fish landed, and the estimated catch rates over time. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for ensuring the entire recreational harvest, including harvest in state waters, does not exceed the recreational quota. Therefore, if states establish a longer season or a larger bag limit for state waters than the federal regulations allow in federal waters, the federal season must be adjusted to account for the additional harvest expected in state waters.If all states were to implement consistent regulations, the 2013 recreational season would be 28 days, assuming the recreational quota is increased to 4.145 million pounds through separate rule-making. However, Texas,Louisiana, and Florida have indicated they will implement inconsistent red snapper regulations for their state waters. Therefore, without this emergency rule, the 2013 federal season would be reduced to 22 days to compensate for that additional expected harvest.This emergency rule allows NOAA Fisheries tocalculate the recreational red snapper fishing season separately in the EEZ off each state to account for anyinconsistency of regulations in state waters. Based onthe expected regulations for Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, the preliminary season lengths would be as follows: Texas, 12 days; Louisiana, 9 days; Mississippiand Alabama, 28 days; and Florida, 21 days
The state of Louisiana is apparently going to continue its game of chicken with the feds to see who will blink first in the battle over red-snapper management off the Bayou State coast.
Randy Pausina, assistant secretary for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, on Thursday told the commission that manages his agency that Louisiana was unsuccessful in its push to get regional management as part of the federal red-snapper framework for the 2013 season.
Louisiana had made the plea to the Gulf Council, a board that manages fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Members voted down the proposal, Pausina told the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.
So that means Louisiana will move ahead with its plan to open open red snapper fishing in state waters beginning March 23. Thereafter, the season will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through September, and will also be open Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Anglers will each be limited to three red snapper, measuring no less than 16 inches long, per day.
In 2012, the state Legislature and the commission declared that Louisiana was taking control of waters out to three nautical leagues, or 10.357 miles. Historically, the waters out to 3 miles off the coast were considered to be Louisiana’s.
View full sizeLouisiana has historically claimed only the waters 3 miles off its coast, but last year, the state extended that line to more than 10 miles. That will greatly affect which oil and gas rigs are fair game for anglers to target red snapper. (Photo by Todd Masson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) At the commission meeting, Louisiana Charter Boat Association president Daryl Carpenter asked Pausina whose waters those were.
“We both claim them,” Pausina said.
“Kind of like smoking a joint in Colorado?” Carpenter asked.
“Exactly,” Pausina responded.
It remains to be seen if federal agents will attempt to enforce federal regulations from 3 miles out to 10.357 miles.
The Gulf Council is currently considering a proposal that would grant regional management to states for the 2014 season, but it’s really just restating bad regulations, Louisiana Wildlife Federation representative Chris Macaluso told the commission.
“We’ve reviewed the proposal, and it gives you flexibility with season dates but not with management,” he said. “It allows the department seasonal creel limits, but there’s no flexibility with the number of fish taken.”
Macaluso said studies show recovery rates in the northern Gulf are substantially higher than those in the eastern Gulf.
“The larval count is eight times higher in the northern Gulf than the east, and the pressure is substantially higher in the eastern Gulf, yet they’re all governed by the same rules,” he said.
Under the Gulf Council’s proposal, a quota overage in one portion of the Gulf would reduce the quota allowance in another part, Macaluso said.
“The scientific data shows you have many more fish in Louisiana than you have in Florida, so how can you practicably manage it as one stock?” Macaluso wondered.
Louisiana’s dates will be made official on Feb. 20 when they are published in the state’s register.
Anglers fishing in Louisiana waters will have 86 days in the season. In federal waters, anglers will have only 27 days, according to commissioner Billy Broussard.