Conservationists Applaud Legislation to Let Gulf States Manage Red Snapper
WASHINGTON, DC (9-12-2013) – A bipartisan coalition led by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) introduced legislation today that charts a new course for management of Gulf red snapper, an important commercial and recreational fishery that has been plagued by controversy. Joining Miller and Richmond as original co-sponsors of the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act were Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.); Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.); Blake Farenthold (R-Texas); Bob Latta (R-Ohio); Pete Olson (R-Texas); Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.); Mike Rogers (R-Ala.); Steve Scalise (R-La.); Austin Scott (R-Ga.); Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.); Tim Walz (D-Minn.); Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.). The legislation comes after the governors of four Gulf states released a joint letter to the U.S. House and Senate leadership stating that federal management of Gulf red snapper is “irretrievably broken,” and calling for a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management.
In a sign of broad support for the concept of state-based management of fish and wildlife resources, the entire leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has signed on to the bill. Reps. Latta, Thompson, Walz and Wittman, all co-chairs of the CSC and most representing districts in states far from the Gulf Coast, have seen the need for a change in how federal fisheries are managed.
“Federal management of red snapper has painted itself into a corner. We have a robust red snapper population in the Gulf, but 2013 was as chaotic a season as anglers have ever seen. The season started as the shortest ever, saw a revolt by some states that resulted in even shorter seasons, endured a lawsuit, received a glowing stock assessment and the promise of a fall season, only to crash on wild estimates of overharvest that put the fall season in jeopardy. This is no way to manage a fishery, and this legislation presents a way out of this no-win situation,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “Congressman Miller is a true champion of American anglers for taking the lead on this legislation. His leadership brings a reliable, workable solution that allows the Gulf states to better manage red snapper conservation.”
Federal management of red snapper has been broken for years, and reached rock bottom in 2013 when frustration over status quo management compelled several Gulf states to seek greater control of the fishery in their own waters. In retaliation, the National Marine Fisheries Service used an emergency rule process to reduce the recreational season to nine days off Louisiana and 12 days off Texas. Both states sued and a federal court overturned the action.
“The reality is that federal management of the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishery is fundamentally flawed, and it is negatively impacting anglers and the coastal economies that depend on access to that fishery,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “State-based fishery management has proven to be far more effective, and has engineered some of the greatest marine conservation victories in the country. We are grateful that the Gulf Governors, Reps. Miller, Richmond and the CSC co-chairs are working to give states back the authority to manage this situation.”
The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act would establish a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management through which the states would fully comply with a management plan approved and adopted by the Gulf States Marines Fisheries Commission. The partnership would be similar to how the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages striped bass and how the Gulf states manage red drum.
“There are many examples where a shift to state-based management of a given fishery resource has been called for, producing better results,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “State fish and wildlife management professionals have a strong track record of managing their fishery resources in order to achieve the right balance between sustainability and quality fishing opportunities. The ongoing red snapper debacle in the Gulf is begging for the opportunity to put proven state-based management approaches to work.”
Comments offered today by other coalition leaders:
Coastal Conservation Association - Pat Murray, President
“This is a fishery that has been defined by crisis for decades, and there is nothing that leads one to believe it is likely to change given the current tools and philosophy of federal management,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “This legislation provides an opportunity to break the cycle of crisis management with a viable alternative, and we applaud Rep. Jeff Miller and Rep. Cedric Richmond for their vision crafting a workable solution.”
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation - Steve Stock, President
“The current management regime for Gulf red snapper is unpredictable and ineffective,” said Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation President Steve Stock. “Rep. Miller’s legislation will allow the Gulf states to build fair, predictable red snapper management that will ensure Gulf anglers have reasonable access to this important resource.”
International Game Fish Association - Rob Kramer, President
“Anglers were the first conservationists,” said Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association. “State-based management – closest to the constituency managed – has a proven track record for conservation.”
National Marine Manufacturers Association - Thom Dammrich, President
“Uncertainty in fisheries management translates to uncertainty for fishing-dependent business,” said National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich. “Rep. Jeff Miller’s leadership in addressing the red snapper issue will mean that marine manufacturers, marine dealers, marina operators, and the many businesses that rely on stable saltwater fisheries will have greater opportunities for success.”
Comment period ends August 29, 2013
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would increase the commercial and recreational quotas for Gulf of Mexico red snapper and potentially re-open the recreational season for 2013. The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 14, 2013.
The rule would increase the total allowable catch for harvest of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico from 8.46 million pounds (mp) to 11.0 mp. The commercial quota would be 5.61 mp and the recreational quota would be 5.39 mp. The quotas can be increased because a recent stock assessment for red snapper showed the stock can support higher catches.
The red snapper commercial sector is managed with an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. The increase of 1.295 mp to the commercial quota would be distributed to IFQ shareholders on or shortly after the effective date of the final rule.
The 1.245 mp increase to the recreational quota could allow a supplemental red snapper recreational fishing season, if unused quota is available. The supplemental season would open October 1, 2013, and preliminary projections show fishing could be supported for 21 days, but only if landings did not exceed the previous quota during the June season. The final projections will be received in mid-August. If quota is available, the official dates of the supplemental season will be announced in the final rule for this action.
For more information please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions on the NOAA Fisheries Web site.
Request for Comments
The comment period on this proposed rule will open on August 14, 2013. NOAA Fisheries must receive comments no later than August 29, 2013. We will address all comments specifically directed to the framework action or the proposed rule in the final rule. You may obtain electronic copies of the proposed rule and the framework action from the NOAA Fisheries Web site or the e-Rule Making Portal www.regulations.gov.
How to Submit Comments
You may submit comments on this document, identified by "NOAA-NMFS-2013-0115", by one of the following methods:
All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible.
About Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional Fishery Management Councils established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council prepares fishery management plans, which are designed to manage fishery resources within the 200-mile limit of the Gulf of Mexico.
August --, 2013
Ms. Susan Gerhart,
Southeast Regional Office, NMFS
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
Dear Ms. Gerhart:
I am taking this opportunity to offer the support of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) for the proposed rule that would re-open the recreational red snapper season beginning in October. We understand that the season length may extend for 21 days and believe that allowing this opportunity for accessing this rapidly expanding resource to Gulf of Mexico anglers should be a first step towards affirming the economic and social potential of recreational fishing in the federal waters of the Gulf.
Understanding that the rule would also increase the 2013 TAC from 8.46 to 11 million pounds we concur with the increase, but take the position that the increases allowed in commercial harvest manifested by this change are effective for this single year and do not represent an action that affects the Gulf Council's current deliberation over changes in red snapper allocation. CCA firmly believes that a major re-allocation of harvest privileges between the commercial and recreational sectors will be the only action that will allow this red snapper resource to generate its full potential economic benefits to this nation.
We urge the NMFS to firmly establish the duration of the October season as rapidly as possible so as to allow the angling public to prepare for the season in advance.
Thank you for this opportunity to express our views on this important issue.
Chester Brewer, Chairman
CCA National Government Relations Committee
Our Association sometimes finds itself in the middle of an issue on which we have many members on both sides. That is case with one of the new regulations the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission proposed at its June, 2013 meeting relating to tarpon fishing, which applies particularly during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. We want our members to be informed and understand how and why CCA Florida formulates its positions on these issues.
Differing methods of fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass have engendered impassioned feelings and emotions for decades now. Over 10 years ago, the FWCC commissioned a study to see if there was a difference in release mortality between tarpon caught in the old, traditional method – using live bait – and those caught using jigs. That study, which was peer reviewed, concluded that there is no significant difference in release mortality between the 2 methods. On the basis of that study – which remains the only such study of which we are aware – CCA Florida adopted the position that no additional regulations governing methods of fishing for tarpon were warranted.
That study has now been discredited to some degree – completely so in the view of some. If one assumes that the study was flawed, that does not mean that the opposite conclusion is now true – it means that we are back to having no study that establishes anything. Nonetheless, the FWCC has decided to propose some new rules for tarpon fishing. CCA Florida supported the new rule making tarpon a catch and release fishery, and we are in complete support of the proposed rule prohibiting the snagging of tarpon (although our position is that only the intentional snagging of tarpon should be prohibited as every angler unintentionally foul hooks/snags a fish at some point).
The last proposed rule would limit the use of bottom weighted jigs while fishing for tarpon, which is a popular method used during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. CCA Florida’s Government Relations Committee – which is made up of 45 members from across our entire State – voted unanimously not to support this new rule – the entire rationale in doing so is that there simply is no scientific evidence demonstrating a need for the new rule. Insisting that the management of our fisheries be pursued using credible science has served us well, and the charged emotions involved in the Boca Grande tarpon fishery are no basis for us to change that approach.