The record nine-day red snapper season in the Federally regulated waters of the Gulf of
Mexico has not been the only snapper related activity to come from the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council recently.
In late June, the state of Mississippi announced it will open state waters out to 9 miles off it’s coast for red snapper fishing for weekends in July, weekends being Friday through Sunday. With a similar announcement by Alabama, all five Gulf states have now gone non-compliant with the Federal snapper regulations. In each case, the state fishery agencies do not feel Federal regulations are justified, and are making a case for management of the Gulf by the states.
A new Advisory Panel to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council has been selected for the proposed For-Hire Red Snapper Individual Quota system. This would mean that charter boats would operate under a quota system for snapper similar to what is in place for commercial snapper fishermen. Permit holders would be issued their very own quota, supposedly based on past catch histories (which do not officially exit for recreational for-hire boats). Twenty members were chosen, from the 5 Gulf States and Rhode Island. The breakdown is: Florida – 9 members, Mississippi – no members, Alabama – 4 members, Louisiana – 3 members, Texas – 3 members, and Rhode Island – 1 member.
Of the 3 Texas representatives, I know Mike Nugent of Port Aransas and Johnny Williams of Galveston. Both have long been active in recreational for-hire fishing. I do not know Troy Williamson, the other Texas member. The member from Rhode Island is named Seth Macinko. He holds some sort of position at the University of Rhode Island, is from Alaska, and was involved in commercial fishing there. I have no idea why he was appointed to an Advisory Panel to the GULF OF MEXICO FISHERIES MANAGEMENT COUNCIL, but perhaps he has special knowledge of red snapper charter fishing in the Gulf I am not aware of? Or perhaps he was picked simply to annoy Gulf Fishermen. I doubt it was because no one else in the Gulf States was interested, as I applied myself.
Now comes a good one. NMFS is considering a proposal to allow as many as 90 charterboats in Alabama to participate in a pilot program that would exempt them from having to follow Federal Red Snapper regulations – including seasons and size and bag limits. This means they could begin taking customers snapper fishing on January 1, 2015, and fish all year, while boats in other states could not begin until possibly June 1, 2015 for their week or so of allowed snapper fishing. The purpose of this plan to to gather data in the snapper fishery – in Alabama, I assume. The fish caught in this program WILL count as part of the Total Allowable Catch for snapper from the Gulf, so there is a real possibility they could catch ALL the snapper NMFS allows the Gulf for 2015 BEFORE JUNE – and no boats from any other states, including private vessels, would be allowed to snapper fish for that year (or 2016, as the proposal is for a two year program).
Public comments on this proposal will be accepted by NMFS until August 4, 2014. Use the link below to voice your opinion, and read the details for yourself.
NEWS on Alabama proposed charterboat EFP:
It appears now that although as many as 90 Alabama boats will be allowed to participate in this program, over 60 Federally permitted vessels in Alabama will not be involved. At this point, it is not known of these vessels “opted out” of unrestricted fishing, or were not offered the chance , for whatever reason.