By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted Thursday to allow each of the five Gulf states to manage recreational fishing for red snapper off their respective coasts for the next two years through Exempted Fishing Permits. This action moves the state one step closer to controlling its own red snapper fishing season.
“Alabama and the other four Gulf states worked diligently to put forth comprehensive proposals that correspond to the geography and red snapper populations off their states,” Ivey said. “I am confident that this EFP will demonstrate Alabama’s ability to effectively manage recreational red snapper fishing in waters adjacent to our state.”
The EFPs will include the private recreational red snapper management for the 2018 and 2019 fishing years. Alabama’s Exempted Fishing Permit proposes a season in 2018 very similar to the summer long Friday-Sunday fishing season that was utilized in 2017. Red snapper landings for Alabama are proposed to be monitored using Alabama Snapper Check, a mandatory red snapper reporting program first implemented in 2014. The state hopes that these studies will demonstrate the effectiveness of state management of recreationally caught red snapper.
“I am pleased that the Gulf Council approved each of the states’ proposals to manage red snapper and other reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a critical step that will provide private anglers more days to fish on the water. These state-led pilot programs will offer an alternative management framework for recreational fishermen in the Gulf and ensure that states are taking the lead in overseeing this abundant and invaluable fishery,” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said.
Sen. Shelby authored language in the FY2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations directing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service to develop the fishery management pilot program allowing states to direct reef fish management activities.
The state-led pilot programs will be implemented in designated zones off the coast of each respective state bordering the Gulf of Mexico. With the Council’s approval, NOAA is now required to publish the plans and allow for a 30 day comment period. NOAA must then ratify each plan before implementation begins.
“The work Alabama has done on red snapper research, artificial reef building and the implementation of the Alabama Snapper Check program has positioned us to be very successful at sustainably managing the red snapper fishery off our coast,” said Commissioner Chris Blankenship of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “The EFP will give us the opportunity to prove we can manage this fishery in a way that works best for Alabama fishermen and related businesses. I am thankful for the continued support from Governor Ivey, Senator Shelby and Congressman Byrne on this issue.”