Federal mismanagement of red snapper draws attention of Congress

Sen. Shelby seeks much-needed relief for recreational anglers

Posted on June 15, 2015

In an unprecedented display of engagement, Congress is making its displeasure known over the current course of federal management of Gulf red snapper by directly addressing it in a number of recent pieces of legislation in both the U.S. House and Senate. Last week, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS), announced full committee passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 CJS appropriations bill which contains provisions dealing specifically with red snapper, including allocation, state boundaries and stock assessments.

“The red snapper fishery is vital to the economy and integral to the way of life on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, yet NOAA’s continued mismanagement leaves anglers with an unacceptably short federal red snapper season,” said Senator Shelby.  “That is why I included language in this year’s Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill to provide much-needed relief for recreational anglers that have been disproportionally impacted by NOAA’s misguided regulations.  This bill includes many positive steps forward, and I will continue to fight for improved management and more accurate data to give Gulf fishermen increased access to the robust red snapper population.”

“It is highly unusual for Congress to take this level of interest in the management of a specific fishery,” said Bill Bird, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association’s National Government Relations Committee. “In working with Sen. Shelby on these provisions, it is clear that he is not pleased with the direction of the fishery and is eager to address ongoing federal mismanagement. We are grateful for his intervention because, quite frankly, NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf Council have not shown any interest in altering their present unsatisfactory course.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Representatives Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and Garret Graves (R-La.) secured passage of a provision in H.R. 2578, the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice Science Appropriations Act, that defunds  a controversial regulation known as Amendment 40 that creates a new charter/for-hire sector in the Gulf red snapper fishery. Amendment 40, along with a host of other federal policies and decisions, resulted in a 2015 red snapper season that allowed private recreational anglers 10 days, the new CFH sector 44 days, and gives year-round access to the commercial sector. In May, an amendment to give full control of the red snapper fishery to the Gulf states was narrowly defeated in the House Committee on Natural Resources.

“Whereas NOAA Fisheries has elected to ignore the growing discontent over their policies along the Gulf Coast, Sen. Shelby and Reps. Graves and Scott have sent unequivocal messages that this federal agency is on the wrong track,” said Edwin Lamberth, chairman of CCA’s Gulf Fisheries Committee. “The current system isn’t working, and we are grateful that some of our elected officials are listening to their constituents and working to find a solution that works for everyone.”