By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama fishermen can only catch and keep Red Snapper for three days this year.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the 2017 Gulf of Mexico Federal Red Snapper Recreational Seasons open for the private angling and Federally permitted for-hire components on June 1, 2017, at 12:01 a.m. local time. The private angler component season will be three days and the Federally permitted for-hire component season will be 49 days in Federal waters. Private Anglers must not take any red snapper after June 4, 2017, at 12:01 a.m.
The Red Snapper total recreational quota is allocated 57.7 percent to the private angling component and 42.3 percent to the for-hire component. NOAA claims that in 2016, the total recreational quota was exceeded by 129,906 pounds. The private angling quota was also exceeded. NOAA has ordered that that overage of the total recreational quota must be paid back by the private angling component because that component exceeded its quota.
After adjustment for the 2016 overage, the 2017 annual catch target for the private angling component is 3,004,075 pounds whole weight.
The 2017 annual catch target for the for-hire component is 2,278,000 pounds whole weight. Catches in both State and Federal waters are counted against the quota. The number of days for each component to harvest its annual catch target was calculated using 2016 catch rates and accounting for the expected red snapper harvest during State seasons outside the Federal season.
US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) called this decision “ridiculous.” Rep. Byrne said in a statement, “My office has learned that this year’s Red Snapper season for recreational fishermen will be only three days. This is absolutely ridiculous. A three-day Red Snapper season for recreational fishermen is not only illogical, but it is also dangerous. Reliable State and University data continues to show a plentiful stock of Red Snapper in the Gulf, but Federal bureaucrats and their outdated methods continue to totally miss the mark. Today’s announcement only further emboldens my efforts to give the Gulf States more control over setting the Red Snapper season. It has become crystal clear that the Federal government has no clue what they are doing while the states have put in place programs that actually work.”
State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) also called the new Federal rules “ridiculous.” Zeigler lives in Mobile and is himself an angler. Auditor Zeigler said, “This is the most ridiculous regulatory decision ever made by the Federal government. It is so unreasonable that it should cause a backlash. Alabama needs to get completely away from Federal regulation of our fishery and have State regulation.” Zeigler is exploring running for Governor in 2018.
US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said in a statement, “I am deeply troubled and disappointed with NOAA’s decision to considerably shorten the federal recreational fishing season for Red Snapper in the Gulf. NOAA’s announcement today is unacceptable.”
The Snapper season will run June 1-3.
The State of Alabama has disputed the NOAA fish census estimates.
Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Gunter Guy said in a statement, “We are greatly disappointed at the extremely limited Federal Red Snapper season. The red snapper fishery off the coast of Alabama is phenomenal. For NOAA Fisheries to allow our anglers only three days to harvest Red Snapper from Federal waters is ridiculous and unjustifiable. Alabama has built a great fishery and has worked diligently to rebuild this once overfished species. Now that the fishery is rebuilding, we are catching larger fish, and they are so plentiful that we are being penalized for our success. We need a radical change on Federal Red Snapper management. Alabama will continue to work with Senator Shelby, Senator Strange and Congressman Byrne to pass legislation that will make real changes to how NOAA manages this fishery.”
Commissioner Guy said, “The Red Snapper fishery means so much to Alabama’s economy. Every day the Federal season is open helps businesses in Coastal Alabama. I am hopeful that once President Trump’s appointees are in place we will be able to discuss with them how the Federal overregulation on this, and other fisheries, is hurting the livelihood of so many people.”
Deputy Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said, “Alabama appreciates Senator Shelby’s work to provide funding for a new Red Snapper assessment, permanent extension of State waters to 9 miles and other initiatives in the 2016 budget and the proposed 2017 budget that will be voted on later this week. Congressman Byrne also championed the need for State management of the Red Snapper fishery at a House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform meeting today in Washington, D.C.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD), announced last month that Alabama’s waters will open for the recreational harvest of Red Snapper from Friday, May 26, through Monday, July 31, 2017. Alabama State waters extend 9 nautical miles from shore. Beyond that is Federal jurisdiction.
Fishermen are reminded that they still are required to report their Red Snapper harvest through Snapper Check to the MRD during the Federal and Alabama State seasons as well as any other time Red Snapper are landed in Alabama.
Blankemship said, “The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will monitor the catch this year using Alabama Snapper Check. We will evaluate the Memorial Day-July season and decide on additional state water fishing days after reviewing the landings data.”