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Mary Landrieu Measure Seeks to Address Red Snapper Row


Update 4:30 p.m.

A wonder lasts but nine days, but that's not enough time for red snapper season, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and a Gulf Coast colleague argue. In an attempt to reel in the feds' authority over how long recreational anglers are permitted to fish for red snapper, Landrieu and U.S. Sen. Tom Wicker (R-Miss.) offered an amendment Wednesday that would give authority over red snapper stocks to the states.

The pair of Senators had previously filed the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act as a standalone bill. But this week, they apparently sensed a chance to get the measure passed by tacking it onto a larger sportsmen's bill that is currently being debated in the Senate.

 

The larger bill, which is designed to renew hunting and fishing programs, is being held up as the Senate wrangles over gun control language contained in the bill, Roll Call reports. Connecticut's Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, are refusing to allow a vote to end debate on the bill as it stands.

 

For recreational red snapper fishing, the federal government has jurisdiction over any waters located three nautical miles beyond the coast. Fishers who look forward to June 1 have been seeing red since last year, when the feds severely limited the red snapper season in all five Gulf Coast states to 28 days. Louisiana officials tugged back on the line, declaring they would extend the season to 88 days. The feds then punished Louisiana for the move, limiting the season to nine days.

 

In 2014, the feds once again cut an initial 40-day season to nine days.

 

The measure filed by Landrieu and Wicker looks to let the states decide on the length of red snapper season by shifting the management of red snapper stocks from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. The Commission is comprised largely of state stakeholders. Still, under Landrieu and Wicker's measure, any season they set would still be subject to approval and enforcement actions through the Secretary of Commerce. The amendment also includes a provision that locks in existing catch quotas for commercial fishers for three years.

 

Red snapper was historically overfished beyond levels that guaranteed the species' survival, but a plan put into place in the 1980s brought populations back to sustainable levels. In recent years, the red snapper population has been increasing, a point Landrieu raised in making the argument that the current federal system is "unquestionably broken."

 

"If we needed any more proof that Congress needs to pass the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act just look at this year’s inexplicably short nine-day season—despite rising stocks! Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states have proven that we can successfully collect accurate and reliable data and manage our red snapper fisheries,” Landrieu said in a statement.

 

U.S. Sen. David Vitter also offered an amendment that would move the red snapper authority to the states. Under his amendment, the power to set seasons and control stocks would flow through Gulf Coast governors, as the states' chief executives would be required to come together to form a new fishery management plan.




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