State marine fisheries departments from the five Gulf states endorsed a months-in-the-planning outline Friday that would place the management of red snapper throughout the Gulf of Mexico in the hands of state fisheries managers.
The plan, which carried the signatures of state fish and game representatives from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, is designed to carry forward the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council’s Reef Fish Amendment 39, which calls for regional management for the red snapper. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries assistant secretary Randy Pausina signed for his state agency.
The Gulf states’ announcement revealed, in part, the following statement: “Under this alternative concept, the Gulf states would coordinate management of red snapper throughout the Gulf of Mexico through a new, independent body called the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority. The GSRSMA would be comprised of the principle marine fisheries managers from each Gulf states, and the management authority for Gulf red snapper would no longer reside within the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.”
It further stated that the GSRSMA framework “... would allow states to use flexible management approaches to manage red snapper to meet local needs as well as Gulf-wide conservation goals. Each state would be responsible for all management of red snapper in their respective state and adjacent federal waters. The GSRSMA would approve each state’s management plan, coordinate population assessments, provide consistent accountability measures, and distribute federal funding for research, assessment, and management.”
The plan gained instant approval from the American Sportfishing Association, the Center for Coastal Conservation, the Coastal Conservation Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
“Throughout the country, states have proven to be highly successful at fish and wildlife management in a way that conserves natural resources while allowing for reasonable public access,” CCC president Jeff Angers said. “The Gulf states are among the nation’s leaders in marine fisheries management, which is why we have continued to look to them as the vehicle for managing Gulf red snapper going forward to get us out of the current mess created by federal mismanagement.”
The new plan would grant red snapper management for each state out to 200 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, and each state would develop, then implement, red snapper management regimes, including season dates and daily creel limits, tailored to each states’ user groups.
“We have long pushed for the states to take over Gulf red snapper, but until now, we haven’t had a detailed plan for what state-based management would look like,” CCA president Patrick Murray said. “Under this approach, we are confident that management outcomes will begin to align with the health of the resource and anglers’ access to it.”
The new plan needs the approval of the GMFMC, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce.