By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, April 6 US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) expressed his disappointment on learning that federal authorities were again limiting the Red Snapper season in Alabama waters to just a few days.
Rep. Byrne said, “My office has received word that this year’s Red Snapper season for recreational fishermen is expected to once again be just a few days. While the season length has not yet been finalized, this is very discouraging. There are plenty of Red Snapper in the Gulf, and it just makes no sense to continue having these painfully short seasons. Last year, we were able to get a bill passed through the House that would give states more control over the process. Sadly, that bill has stalled out in the Senate. Given today’s news, I am once again calling on the Senate to act on our House-passed bill in order to bring much needed relief to our fishermen and coastal communities.”
On April 30 2015 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the 2015 red snapper season length for recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico would be just ten days: from June 1 to June 10 in federal waters. Charter boats had just a 44 day season from June 1 to July 14.
US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said in a statement in 2015, “NOAA’s red snapper season announcement today is deeply disappointing. While the decision to increase the number of days for charter boats to fish is a step in the right direction, limiting private anglers to only 10 days this year is completely unacceptable.”
Shelby said that the, “Announcement also further demonstrates the failure of the current system by which NOAA counts red snapper, and it is clear that significant reforms are needed immediately. I will continue to use every tool available to me in the Senate and on the Appropriations Committee to press for changes to NOAA’s misguided policies that have left anglers with far too few fishing opportunities.”
Sen. Shelby said that NOAA’s decision to increase the number of days for charter boats to fish is a step in the right direction, but that limiting private anglers to only 10 days this year was, “Completely unacceptable.” Shelby said, “Year after year, commercial and recreational anglers have fewer fishing opportunities due to NOAA’s misguided practices regarding red snapper. The red snapper fishery is a key economic driver and is integral to the way of life on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The federal government’s failure to properly oversee red snapper stocks has a damaging impact on fishermen and businesses alike, which is why I will continue to fight for improved management, sounder science, and more accurate data to help commercial and recreational fishermen gain increased access to the robust red snapper population on the Gulf.”
The recreational red snapper season quota is now divided between private anglers and federal for-hire vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2015 NOAA announced that private anglers had a 10-day season in federal waters with a catch target of 3.234 million pounds of red snapper. Federal for-hire vessels had just a 44-day season in federal waters and a target of just 2.371 million pounds of fish. In federal waters, the red snapper bag limit was just two fish with a 16-inch minimum total length size limit. The total red snapper allowable catch increased from 11 million pounds to 14.3 million pounds in 2015. The commercial quota was set at 7.29 million pounds and the total recreational quota is now 7.01 million pounds.
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.