A local charter captain who is still struggling to stay in business told me last week he had heard that the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council at their last meeting voted to RECOMMEND that NMFS rescind the regulations requiring for-hire fishermen with federal permits to follow the stricter of federal or state regulations when fishing in state waters. This means that when the short open season in federal waters more than 9 miles from shore in Texas is closed, charter and head boats would not be allowed to take their customers snapper fishing in Texas waters, even though there is no closed season for red snapper in Texas waters. This would also apply in the other Gulf states. The Council also recommended that NMFS actions “punishing” Texas, Louisiana, and Florida for setting their own seasons and limits for red snapper in their state waters that do not comply with federal regulations by setting an even shorter season in federal waters off these states than for Mississippi and Alabama, which do comply with federal regulations be done away with. In fact, the Gulf Council proposed that the Gulf be divided for red snapper management, into three “zones”, with Texas comprising the West zone, Florida the East, The other Gulf States being the Central or North zone (one other recommendation would have Louisiana being considered the “North Zone”). This is the sort of thing those of us who have been actively involved in the “Snapper Wars” have been suggesting for many years, and seemed to offer hope for a better snapper season for 2013.
Unfortunately, while the Gulf Council DID make these recommendations, NMFS has not responded as to whether they would take them seriously – so as yet they have had no actual effect on regulations or seasons. When the 27 day red snapper season in federal waters of the Gulf was first announced, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s response was that the Department was “furious”. Many of us wondered (even asked) what their response would be? Well, the states of Texas and Louisiana have filed a suit in Federal Court in Brownsville, Texas, against NMFS – and even naming NMFS Southeast Regional Director Roy Crabtree personally – regarding red snapper management. This comes as the US Congress is also considering legislation to allow the Gulf States to manage fisheries in their own waters, apart from NMFS regulations.
At this point, interested anglers are still asked to let their voices be heard to their elected representatives, and a big “Thank You” to TPWD is also in order!