Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana annual membership on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 in Baton Rouge.

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

UPDATED AT 3:40 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards told a group of recreational anglers Thursday that he was open to state regulation of red snapper fishing off Louisiana’s shore, which some anglers said was a rollback of the governor’s previous wildlife and fisheries leader.

“We ought to be able to regulate ourselves when it comes to fishing,” Edwards told the Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana annual membership luncheon during a 14-minute speech that otherwise was long on hunting and fishing stories and short on policy.

Edwards said his position hasn’t changed, but he understands that mixed messages went out over the past year.

Using population and harvesting data, federal agencies have pressed the Gulf State Marine Fisheries Commission, made up of representatives from the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, have limited the red snapper season to nine days and restricted how many fish could be caught.

Legislation in the U.S. Congress, including a bill by Baton Rouge U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, seeks to allow each of the five states to independently regulate the management of the red snapper fishery.

“It isn’t just going to come to us, I understand that. It’s either going to happen through an act of Congress or working through the Gulf Council to secure that autonomy,” Edwards said, adding that the state will move in both directions towards the goal of state regulation.

“Having full flexibility about when you go out and harvest those fish, will be helpful. I think that there ought to be a way to do that,” Edwards said to enthusiastic applause. “When I was a small kid we put somebody on the moon. I think we ought to able to regulate ourselves when it comes to red snapper fisheries in 2017.”

“It’s outside the box and we were very happy to hear what the governor said,” said Marc Mouton, of the Acadiana chapter of the CCA Louisiana.

He said Edwards’ pronouncement amounted to a roll back of Edwards’ previous Wildlife & Fisheries secretary, who argued that the federal government should oversee the fishing of snapper.

Charlie Melancon resigned as head of the state Wildlife and Fisheries department, he said under pressure, in December and Edwards replaced him with Jack Montoucet, a Democratic state representative from Crowley.

“The governor addressed the issue of the past secretary. The new secretary is someone we like and can work with,” Mouton said after the speech.

Montoucet was in attendance as were several state representatives, including House Natural Resources & Environment Committee Chairman Stuart J. Bishop, R-Lafayette, Barry Ivey, R-Central, John Schroder, R-Covington, and Tony Bacala, R-Gonzales.

Edwards joked that he knew from their attendance that the legislators really did like being in Baton Rouge. After the speech, the governor said he would on Friday officially issue the call for a Feb. 13 to Feb. 23 special session to tackle balancing this year’s state budget. He added he would set out the particulars of his plan for the Legislature to consider on Monday.

Founded in 1983, CCA Louisiana is a non-profit organization with 29 chapters around the state and seeking to preserve Louisiana's marine resources. The group was involved in banning gill nets in state waters and establishing redfish as a game fish.

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