If Chad Courville didn’t physically show how upset he is with recent catch data posted for each of the five Gulf states, his words certainly did during Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission monthly meeting in Baton Rouge.
Courville, one of the commission’s seven, took note of a report indicating Florida’s recreational fishermen caught 113.5 percent of its allowed red snapper catch during its 40-day season. Alabama’s report was 100.2 percent.
“The MRIP numbers are insane,” Courville said, mentioning the federal Marine Resources Information Program data showing Alabama might have taken as much as four million pounds of snapper and its state agency reported on pounds of red snapper during the recreational season.
Meanwhile, Louisiana, using its highly accredited and federally approved LA Creel system, showed its state anglers took 99.2 percent of its allowed 700,000-pound-plus red snapper allowed limit. Mississippi reported at 95.6 percent while Texas’ numbers are not final because the Lone Star State continues to hold its state waters open to red snapper catches.
“A three million (pound) discrepancy needs to be addressed,” Courville said. “Somebody will have to answer for this, and Florida does, too. This is something that cannot be glossed over and no one will answer.”
Those updates came from the latest Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s meeting held in Mobile, Alabama.
In another red snapper-related item, the council set the percentage of take for the 2019 exempted fishing permit season for the species, and Louisiana’s recreational allowance will be 19.843 percent of an increased 2019 Gulf-wide quota — 816,439 pounds. Florida’s is 43.73 percent, Alabama’s is 26.298 percent followed by Texas (6.445) and Mississippi (3.684).
Another snapper question is up for public comment, a “new action that would establish a procedure for states to use area or depth-specific regulations” to close seasons in federal waters off those states’ coasts, and for states to have the authority to change size and daily limits.
The GMFMC-set date for Louisiana is Dec. 10 in Baton Rouge (time and location TBA). It’s Dec. 5 in Mobile, Alabama, and Dec. 11 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Other council action included:
- Increased the minimum size on cobia to 36 inches fork length, but did not change the daily recreational limit. Council fishery managers expect the move from a 33 inch fork length to reduce the take by 26.1 percent for recreationals and by 10.3 percent for commercials.
The move provoked the ire of fisheries biologists in the western Gulf because it comes before current stock data comes from a 2019 federal assessment report.
Courville praised the state’s council representatives and LDWF staff for heading off further cobia restrictions.
- No action yet on mangrove snapper, although a recent “stock assessment determined that, gray snapper is experiencing overfishing and may be overfished.”
The council will consider posting a public-hearing draft during its January meeting set for Orange Beach, Alabama.