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Finally, Some Good News on Gulf Red Snapper

Gulf red snapper are everywhere, both literally and figuratively. Anyone who has fished offshore in the Gulf of Mexico recently can attest that the stock is so healthy and abundant that it is difficult to NOT catch a red snapper. However, as a result of a federal fisheries management system that is not adapted to properly manage recreational fishing, angler access to red snapper in federal waters has decreased substantially over the past decade, including an all-time low three-day season this year.

This single fishery has consumed the fishing media in the region and nationally; and for good reason. While there are many other fisheries throughout the country in which anglers are frustrated with arbitrary closures and short seasons that aren’t based on sound science, Gulf red snapper is the poster fish for a federal fisheries management system that isn’t working for anglers.

The outcry over the three day season, which included protests throughout the Gulf region, reached the Halls of Congress and the White House. Thanks to the persistence of several Members of Congress, most notably Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) and Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), the Department of Commerce and the Gulf states negotiated a historic agreement to extend the 2017 Gulf red snapper season by 39 days.

While this is neither a perfect nor long-term fix, it will provide much-needed relief to the recreational fishing industry this year while a permanent solution for Gulf red snapper is developed.

As for all the other federal saltwater fisheries management problems throughout the country, ASA and our partners continue to rally behind the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017, also known as the Modern Fish Act, which contains a comprehensive set of amendments to improve federal saltwater recreational fisheries management and data collection. The House version of the bill, H.R. 2023, has over a dozen bipartisan bill sponsors already, and we expect a Senate version to be introduced in the near future.

Despite the continued frustrations with federal saltwater fisheries management, progress is being made both at the regional and national levels to make the system work better for recreational fishing. The Gulf red snapper season extension clearly shows that our industry’s concerns are being heard.

Mike Leonard
Conservation Director