On the heels of Wednesday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission vote to open the recreational red snapper season for the four-day Memorial Day weekend, Louisiana offshore fishermen can celebrate another big win, this one coming Thursday from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
The 17-member council approved Amendment 50, the plan to give the five Gulf states management of red snapper in state and federal waters.
“We’ve been working for this a long, long time. This is a victory,” Camp Matens said.
The term used in this process is “delegation,” and the GMFMC, after years of topsy-turvy management schemes and ever-shortened recreational red snapper seasons, surrendered management control over this species.
Matens, Louisiana’s former recreational council representative, said there were other important Amendment 50 issues, but delegation is the most important.
“It gives the states the opportunity to tailor the harvest of red snapper to suit their anglers and, in some cases, their charterboat operations,” Matens said.
This “delegation” does not include charterboat and other for-hire fishing businesses operating with federal reef-fish permits.
The GMFMC’s quarterly meeting, held in Biloxi, Mississippi, opened Monday with committee approval of the plan. When the full council met later in the week, Amendment 50 drew a unanimous vote.
The amendment needs only the signature of the U.S. Department of Commerce to become the rule to govern the states.
The full effects of the new rule will come for the 2020 season with management responsibilities out to 200 miles into the Gulf. In 2019, the five Gulf states will operate on the final year of a two-year, federally approved Exempted Fishing Permit.
Wednesday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved a weekends-only private recreational red snapper season to begin with a May 24 four-day Memorial Day opening.
The season will continue, under the LA Creel data-collection system, on Friday through Sunday weekends — an exception is the four-day, July 4-7 holiday — until LA Creel monitors gather data they believe anglers have reached or will reach a new annual 816,439-pound red snapper quota. That number is up from 2018’s near 740,000-pound limit.
The coming season will have the same two-fish, 16-inch minimum size limit as 2018’s 60-day season.
So what’s next?
In its celebratory release, state Wildlife and Fisheries marine biologists and managers said anglers can expect to see similar regulations in 2020, despite the “delegation” clause allowing states to control daily catches.
“Now we will show that Louisiana can manage effectively and that we have all of the intangibles to make this work,” LDWF secretary Jack Montoucet said.
Another part of the amendment will penalize states for going over their prescribed limits — each of the five states have different percentages of the total allowable private recreational red snapper catch. A state catching more than their percentage will be required to “pay back” that overage by deducting their allowed next season’s catch.
In the same measure, a state’s data showing less than their allowed percentage will be able to add that into the next season’s allowed pounds.
In the process leading up to the amendment vote, Patrick Banks, LDWF assistant secretary of fisheries, and Louisiana past and standing council members successfully presented data to get Louisiana anglers a 19.1 percent share of the private recreational red snapper quota.
“Now we have a certain amount of fish reserved just for us. Our Wildlife and Fisheries Commission sets the season for our anglers to catch that set amount of fish and they can set that season whenever they want that best fits our anglers and ensures responsible harvest levels,” Banks said in the LDWF’s announcement.
Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, celebrated the amendment's passage. Graves led the push for the passage of the Modern Fish Act, which, some believe, triggered the move to this shift in red snapper management.
"With the Modern Fish Act as the new law of the land, we're starting to reap the benefits of the years of relentless advocacy from private anglers and making the case in Congress for states-based management," Graves said. "Momentum is on our side, and this is just the latest data point along the new course we're charting: better science, improved access and enhanced sustainability for this treasured public resource."
Recreational anglers will need the state’s fee-free Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to participate in this year’s EFP red snapper season. The ROLP is available on the LDWF’s website: wlf.louisiana.gov. Look under “Fishing,” then “Recreational Fishing,” then the “ROLP” window.
The LWFC, with the LDWF’s Marine Fisheries Section, will hammer out rules for the 2020 red snapper season in the coming months.
With all the debate around oysters, coastal restoration and the nearing end of the moratorium on oyster leases, it was good of the LWFC to honor Mitchell Jurisich Sr. during Wednesday’s meeting.
Mr. Mitch and his brother-in-law Pete Vujnovich were oystermen to their bones, and Jurisich, a Korean War veteran, championed the founding Louisiana Oyster Dealers and Growers Association and worked tirelessly on oyster issues and the sometimes difficult transition from old-world methods to more modern oyster growing and harvesting techniques.
Jurisich was known for his concerns with the environment of coastal Louisiana and his work with preserving and enhancing the state’s oyster-growing waters, always mindful of his effect and the effects of the work of thousands of others in this industry.
Mr. Mitch died earlier this year. Heartfelt condolences to his family.
While mentioning the Jurisich family, Mitch Jr., the new owner of Delta Marina, said the marina’s grand re-opening is set April 13. He’s been updating and remodeling the place since he bought it late last year and it has been opened for about two months. Everything’s in place to serve fishermen venturing from Empire along La. 23.
We’re more than 20 years removed from the state’s gill-net ban in coastal waters, but, lo and behold, state Enforcement Division agents made two cases earlier this year.
In late February, agents cited 33-year-old Timothy Cheramie Jr. of Buras, and Danny Davis Jr., 35, of Venice, for “actively fishing a gill net below the saltwater line.”
Then, March 1, and after that the LDWF described as a “lengthy investigation,” 55-year-old Salvador Cepriano, from Venice, was cited for using gill net south of the saltwater line and fishing without a commercial fishing license.
The report indicated agents watched Cheramie and Davis working a 900-foot gill net, saw the two men pull redfish and black drum from the net, then confiscated the net and returned the still-living fish to the water.
In the second case, the report stated agents were acting on a complaint. Acting on it, the report read agents found Cepriano tending a 900-foot gill net, made contact and found him with 1,017 pounds of catfish. The net was seized and the catfish sold.
All involved face fines up to $950 and possible jail time of 120 days, and Cepriano could get another fine up to $500 and another 90 days in jail.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding a seven-meeting series to take public comment on its future management plans for blackfin tuna. The nearest site is Monday’s 6 p.m. gathering at the Community Center, 101 Stahlman Ave. in Destin, Florida.
Florida’s FWC has a recreational daily limit of 100 pounds or two fish. There are no such restrictions on blackfins taken in federal waters. If you cannot attend, the FWC is accepting comments via its website: MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.