The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the sportfishing industry’s trade association, welcomed the recent decision by the Department of Commerce to grant exempted fishing permits (EFPs) to each of the five Gulf of Mexico states. The Department of Commerce’s decision will allow the states to test state-by-state management for private recreational red snapper fishing for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
As part of this pilot program, the private recreational red snapper quota will be divided among the states involved – Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The states are permitted to determine private recreational red snapper fishing regulations in both state and federal waters off their state’s coast.
Development and approval of the Gulf states’ EFPs was facilitated by language from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in the FY2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill that directed NOAA Fisheries to develop the fishery management pilot program allowing states to manage Gulf red snapper.
“The Gulf states have always led the way on fisheries conservation, and this red snapper pilot program will allow them to continue to demonstrate their ability to successfully manage fisheries,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director. “Gulf red snapper management clearly isn’t working for the recreational fishing community, and we believe states are best suited to finally provide recreational fishermen and the businesses they support with reasonable and responsible access to the rapidly-rebuilding Gulf red snapper fishery.”
Over the course of the last decade, recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico have paradoxically experienced decreasing access to red snapper despite increasing red snapper abundance. What was once a six-month season with a four-fish bag limit in 2007 was shrunk into a mere three-day, two-fish season in 2017.
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would increase the 2017 season by 39 weekend days last June as part of a historic agreement with the Gulf states to harmonize state and federal regulations. However, that decision was a temporary fix, necessitating the development of the 2018-2019 pilot program.
“Gulf red snapper is arguably the most complicated and controversial fisheries issue in the country,” Leonard continued. “A tremendous amount of challenging work and cooperation among the Department of Commerce, Congress and the states led to this positive outcome, and the sportfishing industry is very thankful for that.”
For more information on the EFPs as proposed, visit the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s website.