Bill advances to extend states’ control of red snapper fishing in Gulf of Mexico

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill Wednesday, 13 December that would give states in the Gulf of Mexico more power to manage recreational red snapper fishing.

Filed by U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana), the Red Snapper Act would allow Gulf Coast states to manage recreational fishing up to 25 miles off the coast. Currently, state management extends to just nine miles off the coast. States also would be able to be able to set their own recreational seasons in those waters.

While Graves has said his bill would ensure recreational anglers have a chance to fish, conservation groups and commercial fishing interests have expressed concern over the legislation.

Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United criticized Graves’ bill and said on Twitter that the congressman “panders” to recreational fishermen while abdicating the interests of American seafood consumers.

“It’s important that everyone who fishes plays by the same rules so that we have sustainable fisheries for the long-term,” said Meredith Moore, director of Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation program. “The Magnuson-Stevens Act lays out the principles for conservation, fairness, and accountability that define good management – and those standards shouldn’t be optional, either through legislation or administrative action.”

Ocean Conservancy, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the Department of Commerce earlier this year after Secretary Wilbur Ross added 39 more days to this year’s recreational fishing season.

According to data from NOAA Fisheries, recreational fishermen in the gulf exceeded their catch limit by 56 percent. This raises fears that, when combined with commercial totals, could lead to the red snapper being overfished.

While that season has since closed, the lawsuit is still pending as the conservation groups have said they want federal officials to follow the regulations within the Magnuson-Stevens Act to keep the stock from being overfished.


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