By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY —The House Natural Resource Committee held a congressional subcommittee hearing on Thursday to discuss red snapper population management in the Gulf of Mexico.
Chris Blankenship, the Director of the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, testified before the subcommittee on behalf of the State and at the request of Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01).
During his testimony, Blankenship said he thinks the recreational red snapper season should be extended from last season’s nine-day limit. Blankenship also said the State is doing a better job of accurately determining the best way to measure the snapper population. He cited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimation of 1,000,041 lbs. of red snapper caught last year. In stark contrast, Alabama’s estimation totaled 418,000 lbs. landed.
NOAA Deputy Assistant, Sam Rauch III, said he thinks NOAA’s estimates were adequate, but acknowledged the organization is working to incorporate state data into the projections. He also said the situation is unresolved and no decision has been made at this time.
Congressman Byrne brought the problem into a more local perspective. He pointed out the impracticality of NOAA taking their samples from the bottom of the Gulf farther away from the coast. Red snapper are reef fish, so estimates gathered closer to shore should be more accurate. Congressman Byrne told Mr. Rauch that his constituents have “lost confidence” in the Federal Government to adequately handle this responsibility. Further, Byrne said he believes this issue may only be resolved by congressional action.
House Members who call the Gulf Coast home would like legislation enacted that would transfer authority over the Gulf Coast fishery management to a commission run by the Gulf Coast states.
Congress may be divided on a lot of issues but Republicans and Democrats alike enjoy fishing. Hopefully the House will listen to their fellow members and take action that is common sense and works for everyone along the Gulf Coast.