WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following statement was issued by Meredith Moore, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Fish Conservation program, in reaction to an advance copy of the “RED SNAPPER Act of 2017,” which was introduced by Representative Garret Graves (R-LA-6th) on July 28, 2017:
“There are significant challenges facing the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, brought on by decades of overfishing and short-sighted political pressure. Ocean Conservancy believes the RED SNAPPER Act of 2017 would exacerbate, rather than solve, these challenges.
“We agree we need more cooperation across the Gulf states and the federal government to continue to rebuild red snapper, but there is a big difference between empowering regional authority and giving away the ranch.
“The bill ignores a core problem – the recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico has a long history of exceeding its science based catch limits, including a 65 ton overage in 2016. Instead of developing solutions to this problem, it creates a new ‘extended red snapper management zone’ that would be subject to less accountability, shaky science and a weaker connection to the core conservation requirements of the law. Those requirements, like ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks to healthy levels, have delivered record recovery of both fish populations and fishing communities nationwide.
“We are almost halfway through a rebuilding plan for red snapper that is showing results on the water. The RED SNAPPER Act of 2017 stacks the odds against red snapper recovery. And that’s bad news for everyone who has a stake in this fishery—from recreational, commercial and the charter-for-hire sectors to seafood lovers, small businesses and coastal communities across America.”
Meredith Moore is available for interviews upon request.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
- A recent CBS This Morning segment took a close look at the challenges facing the red snapper fishery: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/red-snapper-extended-fishing-season-environmental-group-gulf-of-mexico/
- The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law that governs how fish are managed in federal waters (typically between 3 and 200 nautical miles offshore). The MSA requires that managers restrict catch below science-based annual limits that are set at levels to prevent overfishing of the resource.
- The Gulf of Mexico red snapper is a commercially and recreationally important stock to the region. Due to decades of overfishing, red snapper was first declared overfished in 1988. The stock is managed under a rebuilding plan and scheduled to be rebuilt to healthy levels by 2032.
- On July 17, Ocean Conservancy filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging an extension to the private recreational season for red snapper. In June, the Department of Commerce dramatically extended the red snapper fishing season for private recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico. This decision – which adds 39 days of fishing on to the original 3 day season – will allow anglers to significantly exceed their annual catch limit, which is set at a level to prevent overfishing. The Department of Commerce estimated this will lengthen rebuilding by six years.
- The RED SNAPPER Act of 2017 will exacerbate management issues and further undermine the red snapper rebuilding plan. It calls for yet another fishing zone in the Gulf of Mexico. As is the case now, the states would maintain management control of state waters (out to 9 miles). Under this bill, the states would also manage another area for red snapper fishing out to 25 nautical miles or more, coinciding with areas that are, on average, 25 fathoms in depth. Federal managers would maintain management control over areas out to 200 miles.
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