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State to takeover Red Snapper season management

Young man fishing on a lake from the boat at sunset

Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that the National Marine Fisheries Service has granted Alabama’s request for an Exempted Fishing Permit, thereby allowing the state of Alabama to manage the recreational red snapper fishing dates for 2018 and 2019.

“I am very pleased that the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, has granted Alabama an Exempted Fishing Permit for the next two red snapper seasons,” Ivey said in a statement. “Following the directives from President Trump to cut down on federal regulations, this decision empowers Alabama to manage our resources instead of bureaucrats in Washington. Due to this exemption, I have instructed the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to set the 2018 season to 47 days. This season will allow recreational anglers five more days to fish for red snapper compared to last year. I am proud we have been able to expand the red snapper season, which is a critical part of Alabama’s recreation and tourism industry.”

The 2018 Red Snapper season in Alabama will run from June 1 through September 3, with Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays open to fishing. The entire week of the Fourth of July (June 30 through July 8) will also be open for Red Snapper fishing. Alabama and federal waters will also be open for red snapper fishing on Labor Day. The bag limit will remain two per person with a 16-inch minimum length.

“The red snapper fishery means so much to the coastal culture and economy of Alabama,” Ivey added. “I appreciate the work of Senator Shelby and Congressman Byrne on this vital issue. The entire state of Alabama is also indebted to Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship, as this exemption would not have happened without his leadership and his tireless advocacy for Alabama. I am proud of the work Commissioner Blankenship is doing, and I am honored to have him as a part of my cabinet.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said, “A 47 day Red Snapper season is a huge development for our local fishermen and Alabama’s coastal communities. This is how government should work: take power from Washington and return it to the people who best understand the issue. Under this proposal, our fishermen will have adequate time to enjoy a Gulf Coast tradition while our coastal communities will benefit from increased revenue. It is a win-win situation for coastal Alabama.”

“I want to thank the Trump Administration, Senator Richard Shelby, NOAA Fisheries Administrator Chris Oliver, Chris Blankenship and the entire team at the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and everyone who helped make this upcoming Red Snapper season possible,” Byrne added. “As I have always said, it requires a total team effort to resolve this issue, and today’s announcement is a big step toward greater local control over the Red Snapper fishery.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said, “This announcement is excellent news for the recreational fisherman in Alabama. After authoring the provision allowing NOAA to approve the pilot programs, our Gulf states will take the lead in managing recreational fishing of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. I am confident that Alabama’s state-led pilot program will provide our recreational fisherman with much-needed, long-overdue relief and result in more days on the water,” said Senator Shelby.”

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Shelby authored language in a FY2017 Appropriations bill that directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service to develop the fishery management pilot program that allows 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. Following the Gulf Council’s approval in January at a meeting in New Orleans, NOAA was required to publish the plans and allow for a 30-day comment period. NOAA has now ratified each plan, allowing implementation to begin after the individual states signal approval.

The federal charter season for red snapper is not included in Alabama’s new permit and is expected to be announced by NOAA Fisheries sometime in April 2018. The federal charter season for red snapper is believed to be longer than the federal charter season in 2017.

Fishermen are still required to report their red snapper harvest through the Alabama Snapper Check Program. The data collected through the Alabama Snapper Check Program the past four years was critical in securing the additional red snapper fishing days. Only one report is required per vessel trip, and anglers can provide details electronically or in a form in person.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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