We’re just days away from another shot at catching — and keeping — red snapper.
Yep, Nov. 20 opens a second state-waters-only season off our state’s coast, and state fisheries managers, using their dynamic LA Creel numbers, will allow us to take in the neighborhood of another 80,000 pounds of red snapper from what historically is our annual take of the species.
To be sure, by opening a second season, our state’s managers and fishermen are thumbing our noses at federal fisheries managers, who continually insist we can have only a handful of red snapper days in federal waters. This year it was 10 days.
This second season all the more points to the fact that leaving red snapper management to federal managers, and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council which, year after year, swallows federal fisheries data hook, line and sinker to set those much-too-short seasons, is an exercise in futility.
At the urging of recreational fishing groups, notably the Coastal Conservation Association and Keep America Fishing, and the insistence of marine biologists with no ties to federal funding (therefore no threat to have their funding curtailed), federal fisheries studies are darned sure there are two distinct red snapper populations in the Gulf of Mexico, one in the western waters of Louisiana and Texas and another in the eastern Gulf mostly off the Florida coast.
Knowing that, and acknowledging the Gulf’s western population is at, or above, sustainable levels — the Gulf’s eastern numbers don’t show the same recovery — the GMFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service insists that we live in a management scheme that lumps all recreational red snapper efforts.
It’s doubtful that this is a funding issue: NMFS spends millions in its annual Gulf of Mexico reef-fish study to continually hold its ground and its restrictive approach to recreational fishing access to red snapper in federal waters.
While spending those millions and knowing about red snapper off our coast, federal fisheries managers and the Gulf Council continue to throw up roadblocks to a regional approach to managing this species, and, in recent years, “regional” has become “state” management.
From here, it appears there would have been little effort to push for state red snapper management, and no need for Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves’ current push for a bill to impose regional/state management, if NMFS and the Gulf Council would undertake, then implement, a regional plan to manage these two unique red snapper populations.
But the Gulf Council has not shown a willingness, nor have NMFS managers demonstrated a desire to make a move that could mean they have been wrong for so many years in their assessment and management of red snapper.