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Did You Miss the Red Snapper Season?

Summary of 6/12/17 meeting | TPW Action Taken

June 12, 2017

If you blinked you missed the red snapper season this year!  It started one minute after midnight on June 1st and ended at the same time on June 4th. Last year recreational fishermen had nine days to go fishing in federal waters, this year it was only three!  Both are an insult to private anglers, especially when there are viable alternatives.

Let’s be clear, everybody wants to protect the fishery.  The commercial sector makes it’s livelihood from it and the recreational sector wants to ensure there are fish out there for them to catch for generations to come.

The problem stems from the federal government’s oversight of the red snapper fishery and its seeming inability to get an accurate assessment of the fishery’s size.  If the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) could get a realistic assessment of the size of the fish population then reasonable decisions could be made.  But NMFS’s formulas don’t line up with what fishermen from all sectors are seeing.  Commercial and recreational fishermen alike will tell you the size of the red snappers they’re catching is increasing.  This is a sure sign the number of fish out there is expanding, not contracting.   So the first step is to get the data right.  It’s the key to dealing with a fair and equitable allocation of how long the season should be and what catch limits should be allowed.

The five gulf coast fish and wildlife agencies have a proven track record for good management of fisheries.  These state agencies have shown themselves to be honest brokers and unlike the federal government, they are local and can be responsive to the local communities.  We recommend taking a serious look at moving the management of the federal red snapper fishery to the five Gulf Coast States.

In our view a reasonable goal would be to have one set of equitable rules for state and federal waters.  Currently in Texas waters you can go red snapper fishing any time you want and can catch up to four fish per trip.  That’s a lot more reasonable than being limited to three days a year and  limited to two fish per person per trip!

But just perhaps somebody is listening!  There’s a proposal being considered that would open federal waters to the recreational sector every weekend in June, July,  July 3rd and 4th  and August.  The downside is the state would be required to mirror the federal government red snapper fishing season (i.e., close its waters on weekdays and perhaps into the Fall).  This proposal won’t address the data issue or the two bag limit per trip.  The Texas Parks and Wildlife agency will be holding a public hearing on this proposal tonight at the Galveston County Extension Services building (4102-B Main Street FM 519 in La Marque).  If you’re interested in this issue, consider attending.  The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

The bottom line is there are solutions that will allow recreational fishermen more than three days of red snapper fishing per year and we think they should be explored.

Bill, Mark, and John

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A follow up to the June 12th TPW Meeting:

Red Snapper Hearing Notes:

I attended the public hearing yesterday conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife  (TPW) office. There were about a hundred people in attendance for a meeting that was called on short notice.   As you may know, the National Marine and Fisheries Service (NMFS part of NOAA) gave recreational fishermen only three days of red snapper fishing this year. This is not only an insult it’s a joke!  At the urging of some of the Gulf Coast members of Congress, the Secretary of Commerce told NOAA/NMFS to offer some alternatives.   

There were three options on the table:

-- #1 Expand the fishing season to include the weekends this summer (Saturday and Sunday) through Labor Day.  In doing so, the State of Texas (which currently allows red snapper fishing year round) would need to shut down red snapper fishing in state waters for Monday through Friday during the same period.  Under this scenario the fishing season in both state and federal waters would also be open for the Independence Day and Labor Day weekends.

-- #2 Expand the fishing season throughout this summer to three day weekends (Friday-Sunday).  Under this proposal red snapper fishing in state waters would be closed Monday-Thursday through Labor Day but it would leave open the possibility that the closures could also run into the fall fishing season.

-- #3 The final option would be to do nothing and stay with only the three day fishing season in federal waters while keeping red snapper fishing in Texas state waters year round.

Some Observations:

It was clear that the majority of people attending wanted to expand the fishing season in federal waters.   Only a few of them -- indicated by a show of hands -- that they go fishing on weekdays.  It was also very clear that few, if any, trusted NOAA/NMFS or the federal government to guard the interests of the recreational fishermen!  Such was not the case when talking about the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency.  Every person giving comment complemented TPW for holding the line against federal encroachment and for supporting the sports fishermen.  I made the comment that just the fact that TPW were there holding this (and two other) public hearings, explaining the options, asking questions, and listening to comments reinforced the belief that TPW were available to those they serve and that they could be trusted.

One speaker made the comment that NOAA/NMFS set the federal fishing season based upon politics and not on what is best for the fishery.  He noted that the spawning season runs from June 1st through the middle of August.  If one wants to protect the fishery.



Later in the week, the Texas Parks and Wildlife office, in conjuction with its counterparts in the other Gulf Coast States decided to move forward on Option #2 (above).

This, of course, is a temporary fix. It fails to deal with the inaccurate NOAA/NFWS data, it fails to deal with improving the management of the fishery, and it also fails to deal with the two fish bag limit per day in federal waters. The Gulf Coast states will have their state waters closed to red snapper fishing Monday through Thursday (excluding the July 4th and Labor Day weekends) through Labor Day, and the federal government could require the states to keep their waters closed to red snapper fishing on weekdays for additional days during the fall fishing season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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