In a precedent-setting move, Gov. John Bel Edwards attended Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries commission meeting and touched on the issue of red snapper.
Edwards’ appearance is the first on record for any sitting governor to address the seven-member commission, and came after, he said, a nine-month standing invitation from Department of Wildlife and Fisheries secretary Jack Montoucet to put a commission meeting on his schedule.
Edwards began his near five-minute speech by thanking the commission “for the work you do all the time,” and he thanked the department’s staff, especially noting the dedication of the LDWF’s Enforcement Division agents.
“The people in Louisiana are very passionate about the outdoors,” Edwards said, adding the difficult nature of what he called striking “the right balance” when it comes to setting regulations and managing the state’s resources under Wildlife and Fisheries’ purview.
“This is a such an important part of what we do in our state, the Sportsman’s Paradise … that getting it right is very important,” said Edwards, noting how many people in the state earn their livelihoods from outdoors resources.
He talked about the passion from all corners of the state for both commercial and recreational concerns, again saying how difficult a task it is to "strike balance between competing interests.”
“I just wanted to share this with you all ... as it relates to red snapper,” Edwards said. “It is our position that the State of Louisiana is in a better position to manage that, and what we’ve done in the past ought to inspire confidence (to manage fisheries) both in our state and out of our state.”
Edwards further stated he believes the state should “maximize the number of fish that can be caught and number of days to catch fish,” with an obvious reference to red snapper.
“It’s obvious you disagreed with that, and I’m OK with that, but we just have to keep working and keep talking and working our way through this,” Edwards said.
His response followed the commission’s “no vote” on extending the recreational red snapper season during its October meeting.
In early October, Edwards issued a statement endorsing a state-waters-only recreational red snapper season during the fall months after an LDWF analysis showed Louisiana’s recreational red snapper take fell short by slightly more than 100,000 pounds of the self-imposed 1.04 million-pound red snapper quota for this year.
The commission did not take up the matter after a motion to extend the season failed to gather a second. That inaction came after a handful of commission members cited the lack of firm red snapper-catch numbers from the other four Gulf States, and without those numbers the state’s recreational fishermen could face the possibility of extremely shortened red snapper seasons in 2018.
It was at the October meeting when commission chairman Chad Courville said if data from the other Gulf States was forthcoming, and those numbers didn’t show an overage in the gulf-wide red snapper recreational quota, he would convene a meeting to consider a fall recreational red snapper season for state waters out to nine miles.