Sen. Mary Landrieu calls for change after feds set 9-day red snapper season _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOE MACALUSO The federal red snapper season dates were finalized Wednesday, and shortened to a nine-day season in federal waters.

After another year when federal fisheries managers have announced three different recreational red snapper seasons, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and CCA-Louisiana executive director David Cresson are calling for passage of the Red Snapper Conservation Act.

Landrieu said she and Cresson met with Sen. Mark Begich, D-Ark., the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, to push for changes in red snapper management after National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries managers announced a nine-day recreational red snapper season in federal waters. The announced season is set to run from 12:01 a.m. local time June 1 to a close at 12:01 a.m. June 10.

It’s the third announced season after NOAA regional director Roy Crabtree announced a 40-day season late last year, a season that was reduced to 11 days by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met in Baton Rouge in early April.

In Wednesday’s GMFMC announcement, NOAA managers said the reduction in the number of recreational days was traced to the Council’s addition of a 20 percent buffer in the estimated daily take and number of pounds Gulf-wide by recreational anglers. That 20 percent buffer was set in place to ensure recreational anglers did not exceed their annual quota, which is 49 percent of the current total allowable annual red snapper take of 11 million pounds. Commercial fishermen get 51 percent of that total.

Without the buffer, the recreational quota is 5.39 million pounds. With the buffer added into the estimate, the recreational total is reduced to 4.312 million pounds. Using its data, federal managers determined it would take nine days to reach that allowable target catch. The nine-day season includes only three weekend days.

The dates apply to federal waters, which, for Louisiana, takes in the Gulf of Mexico from the state’s three-mile limit out 200 miles into the Gulf. The minimum size limit for red snapper remains at 16 inches with a two-per-angler daily creel limit.

Almost immediately after the Gulf Council approved the 11-day season, the Louisiana Department Wildlife and Fisheries announced a year-round red snapper season for state waters. And, in late April, Florida’s wildlife and fish commission approved a May 24-July 14 recreational red snapper season in state waters, which extends nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Texas, which also has a nine miles of state waters into the Gulf, has a year-round season in its state waters.

“Today’s reckless announcement of a nine-day red snapper season severely hurts our fishermen and the Gulf economy,” Landrieu said in prepared statement. “After Louisiana’s successful efforts to collect data and manage our red snapper fisheries, it’s maddening to have a federal agency tell our local fishermen that they will be unfairly subjected to the shortest red snapper season in history. Given the rising stocks of red snapper, a nine-day season is unthinkable and it’s a stark reminder that the old system governing recreational fishing for red snapper is unquestionably broken.”

Landrieu introduced the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act in 2013 in an effort to move red snapper management from federal to state agencies.