Lost opportunity for state management of red snapper
House Committee member helps derail state management amendment
WASHINGTON, DC - Legislation to transfer management of Gulf red snapper away from the federal government and allow the Gulf States to manage the fishery entirely was narrowly rejected last week during a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee. The state management amendment was one of many being considered by the Committee during the mark up of HR 1335, a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson Stevens Act sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).
With the support of the Chairman of the Committee and the sponsor of the bill, the state management amendment was offered by Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.) to implement the recommendations of the five Gulf state directors to bring an innovative solution to the long-standing chaos of federal red snapper management. Unfortunately, in negotiations leading up to the vote and even during the hearing itself, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) vigorously opposed the state management amendment and promoted his own amendment that will tweak some aspects of snapper management but will ultimately maintain it under federal control and lock in status quo for the fishery.
“On the same day that NOAA Fisheries announces a 10-day private recreational season and 44-day charter/for-hire season, Congressman Byrne successfully lobbied the Committee to leave the federal system largely intact. This is truly a lost opportunity to finally correct the chaotic management and privatization of red snapper,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “Congressman Graves’ amendment had the full support of the chairman, the manager of the bill and the Gulf states themselves. It is just disappointing to miss this chance to rectify decades of mismanagement due in large part to the efforts of the congressman from Alabama.”
In an email the night before the hearing, Byrne’s office urged Committee members to reject the state-based management plan, stating that “if such an amendment were enacted it would drastically affect the Red Snapper management structure while leaving a great deal of uncertainty for all sectors involved.” During the hearing itself, Rep. Byrne began by deriding federal management, calling its science deplorable and stating that he wanted a solution as badly as anyone in the room.
“But this (Graves) amendment won’t get us there because it pits one part of the fishery against another which guarantees we won’t be able to get it to the floor for a vote,” Byrne said. “It also takes things completely away from the federal government without having a well-thought-out substitute in its place.”
“I’m not sure how closely Congressman Byrne has been following red snapper, but federal management has already pitted parts of this fishery against the others. NOAA is actively promoting privatization schemes for some sectors and is already overseeing a system that is producing this year a 10-day private recreational sector season, a 44-day charter/for-hire sector season and a year-round commercial season,” said Ted Venker, CCA Conservation Director. “This is a disaster decades in the making, and one that many elected officials have spent many years trying to unravel. The time for half-measures and tweaks to federal management is long past.”
The recreational community remains committed to the concept of state management for Gulf red snapper and will continue working with Congressman Graves and others to see the concept fully implemented.