By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Alabama leaders denounced a decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to limit the 2016 red snapper season for private fisherman to just nine days. Charter boat captains got some relief from NOAA. They were given a 46 day season in which clients pay harvest the popular table fish. Fisherman are allowed to fish for red snapper outside of the prescribed season, but must release all red snapper caught outside of the season. Fishermen may only keep two fish per day and the minimum fish kept is sixteen inches long. U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R from Alabama), U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne, and state Auditor Jim Zeigler all released statements calling the nine day plan unacceptable.
Sen. Shelby said, “The decision to limit the red snapper season for private anglers this year is disappointing and underscores the failures of NOAA’s current system to count fish. While I am encouraged by the small increase in days for the charter fleet, a nine day season for private recreational anglers is simply unacceptable. I will continue to fight against NOAA’s mismanagement and stand up for much-needed investments to boost the red snapper fishery.”
Auditor Jim Zeigler said that the nine-day federal red snapper season was “unacceptable.”
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler is a sport fisherman himself and he reacted strongly to the announcement on Wednesday. Zeigler said, “These federal limits are totally unacceptable. They are based on bad science and improper counting of the snapper fishery. We need to get Alabama out from under federal regulation and have state conservation handle our fishery.”
U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R from Montrose) called the nine day red snapper season, “A disgrace.” Rep. Byrne said, “A nine day Red Snapper season is a disgrace for Alabama’s fishermen. This type of ‘derby-style’ season poses serious challenges and puts the safety of our fishermen at risk. There are plenty of Red Snapper in the Gulf, but the federal government continues to do a terrible job of counting the number of fish, as well as the number caught each year.”
Rep. Byrne added, “The House has passed reform legislation that would give us a real season again, and it is past time for the Senate to act on our legislation and bring relief to our fishermen.”
Zeigler said, “Can you imagine paying for a boat to go snapper fishing and only being able to use it for nine days?”
The recreational fishing season will run from June 1 to June 10 at 12:01 am local time. The charter for-hire season will run from June 1 to July 17 at 12:01 am local time.
Last year, Congressman Byrne pushed reforms through the House that would give the Gulf states more control over setting the Red Snapper season. The reforms, included in the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act, would: Repeal the inflexible quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper fishery; extend state water boundaries for each Gulf state to nine nautical miles; and remove data collection and stock assessments from federal control.
Senator Shelby is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS). Shelby supports changes to the fishing regulations passed by the House; but has been unable to get the measure through the full Senate.