A Voice for Our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy Statement: Red Snapper Fishery is a Hard-won Success


ST. PETERSBURG, FL, MAY 1, 2017–The following statement was issued by Chris Dorsett, Vice President Conservation Policy and Programs for Ocean Conservancy, in anticipation of a Congressional review of red snapper management and an announcement this week of the 2017 federal red snapper recreational season:

“The news that red snapper, the iconic fish of the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to have a limited recreational season in federal waters for 2017 will undoubtedly influence another bid by some members of Congress to undermine the recovery of this fishery by handing management to the Gulf states—despite the states’ actions being the root cause of the truncated season.

“When 75-80% of the Gulf red snapper recreational fishery, consisting of private anglers and state permitted captains, is caught in state waters, the National Marine Fisheries Service and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council have no choice but to drastically shorten the federal season to keep red snapper on the road to recovery.

“Smart, science-based management under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act has breathed life back into the red snapper fishery. The recreational catch alone has rebounded from only 2.45 million pounds in 2009 to 7.19 million pounds in 2016.

“Despite this success, some members of Congress want to turn back the clock by instituting failed methods of the past. Ocean Conservancy urges Congress to not let ill-conceived legislation wrest failure from the mouth of hard-won success.

“Difficult sacrifices by generations of fishermen, the livelihoods and small businesses in hundreds of coastal economies and the long-term rebuilding of sustainable American fisheries are at stake.”

Chris Dorsett is available for interviews upon request.



Red Snapper Season Announcement

  • The 2017 federal red snapper fishing season will be announced in the near future, possibly the week of May 1, 2017. Based on preliminary projections, it will be even shorter than in 2016 because of inconsistencies with state and federal seasons.
  • This situation was compounded by the recent extension of state waters from 3 nautical miles out to 9 nautical miles for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The result of this was that more red snapper were caught in ‘state waters’, further reducing the federal water season.
  • A science-based rebuilding program, accountability for fishing fleet performance and an effective management program for the commercial industry have allowed red snapper in the Gulf to rapidly recover from decades of overfishing, supporting the highest catch levels on record over the past three seasons.

Hearing on Red Snapper Management in the Gulf of Mexico

  • The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing “Examining the Management of Red Snapper Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico” on May 2, 2017, will likely focus in part on management of the Gulf of Mexico commercial fishery through a catch share system.
  • The system has successfully kept the commercial fleet within their annual catch limit every year, helped to bring stability to coastal communities and small businesses, and created security for our nation’s food production.
  • The commercial sector has designed a program to manage their portion of the fishery and stay within science-based catch limits. The for-hire sector is working on doing the same and has demonstrated that it can keep its harvest levels within their sub-component’s limits. The private recreational fishery has thus far been reluctant to step up and proactively work in good faith to address their unique problems, despite having every tool in the toolbox to do so.

Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act

  • In 2015, Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA-6) introduced the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, which proposed removing the red snapper fishery from under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It is likely that Rep. Graves will reintroduce an identical or substantially similar bill soon.
  • The bill suggested management be handed over to a new Gulf States Red Snapper Authority where decisions would be made by as few as three individuals. Under that legislation, management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper would lack defined standards to ensure sustainability and fair and equitable use of red snapper. There were also no protocols to ensure scientists provide management advice.
  • The bill’s unfunded mandate would place an undue burden on Gulf state economies, since they will be required to perform costly annual stock assessments from 0-200 miles in Gulf waters and egregious and untenable stress on their state law enforcement divisions that are responsible for upholding the law in these waters.

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