Sen. Shelby champions recreational anglers
Alabama senator proposes significant fixes for Gulf red snapper mess
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) made clear in June that he intended to level the playing field for recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico by inserting several provisions dealing specifically with red snapper into the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill. With introduction of the Congressional Omnibus Appropriations bill today, Sen. Shelby strengthened his commitment to fight for anglers with specific language on state boundaries as well as red snapper allocation and stock assessments.
“Senator Shelby's leadership and commitment to tackling the challenges facing the red snapper fishery has paid off,” said Mitch Brownlee, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association. “ The provisions authored by Sen. Shelby included in the omnibus, specifically ensuring that the red snapper stocks are properly counted, that there is more local involvement in the process, and moving the state boundary lines from three to nine miles, are huge wins for fishermen across the Gulf. CCA is very grateful for Sen. Shelby's continued efforts, and we are optimistic that these changes will lead to what we all hope for – a longer fishing season."
“This year’s unacceptably short red snapper season underscores the need for serious reforms to the challenges facing all fishermen on the Gulf,” said Sen. Shelby. “The omnibus includes important language that I authored to directly address the federal government’s misguided practices regarding the red snapper fishery. These provisions represent a big step forward for fishermen, and I will continue to fight for provisions to help anyone who wants to fish for red snapper in the Gulf.”
Specifically, the appropriations bill includes language that:
- Urges NOAA to provide an increased allocation of Gulf red snapper to private recreational anglers should the total allowable catch of red snapper increase above a certain threshold. This would help provide relief for recreational anglers that have been especially impacted by NOAA’s misguided regulations.
- Extends Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana state seaward fishery boundaries from 3 miles out to 9 miles for these states to regulate red snapper and other reef fish. Currently, just Texas and Florida have boundaries out to 9 miles.
- Provides $5 million for independent, non-NOAA stock assessments for Gulf reef fish including red snapper. Directs NOAA to count fish on artificial reefs and offshore energy exploration infrastructure, incorporate those counts into future stock assessments and management decisions for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Provides up to $5 million for NOAA’s National Sea Grant College program to support external research and development through its network of academic institutions for a red snapper tagging study in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Provides no funding for the full transition to the controversial new Marine Recreational Information Program implementation plan until NOAA fixes the stock assessment process as directed under the bill’s red snapper section.
“It is impossible to get the red snapper fishery back on a course that makes sense for the angling public under the current broken federal management system,” said Pat Murray, president of CCA. “We are fortunate to have Sen. Shelby not only recognize the systemic problems, but map out specific steps to begin fixing this frustrating situation.”