Commerce Dept Reforms Red Snapper Fishing Rules in Gulf of Mexico

In an effort to improve private recreational fishing access in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Commerce has listened to recommendations from sportfishing groups to extend the federal Gulf red snapper season by 39 days–instead of the current 3-day rule.

The states affected include Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The amended red snapper season will run now through Labor Day.

Rep. Steve Scalise–who was critically injured from last Wednesday’s shooting in Alexandria, VA–led the charge to pass this important conservation measure to allow more anglers access to these particular fishing opportunities.

In a statement released by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s office, he thanked Scalise and other lawmakers for their efforts in reforming red snapper fishing limit rules.

“I’d like to offer my thoughts and prayers to Whip Scalise, his staff, the Capitol Police, and their families,” said Secretary Ross. “Majority Whip Scalise and his staff have been incredibly helpful on this and a host of other issues, and I wish them and the other victims a speedy recovery. Such a despicable act of violence has no place in our political discourse, and the Administration and Congress will continue to work together in service to the American people.”

The press release further expanded on the rules changes:

The new rule announced today will re-open the 2017 Federal recreational season for red snapper by the private angling component on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June 16, 2017, through Labor Day, September 4, 2017. During this time, the season will be closed Monday through Thursday with the exception of July 3, July 4, and September 4. Correspondingly, the five Gulf States will bring their state red snapper water seasons into alignment with the Federal water season for the rest of the summer.

This is the first time in nearly a decade that decade federal authorities and the five states that rest on the Gulf of Mexico are cooperating to coordinate Federal and State private angler red snapper fishing seasons for the rest of the summer season.

Sportfishing groups also weighed in on the news last week.

“Today’s announcement providing additional Gulf red snapper fishing days is a welcome relief for the thousands of tackle shops, marinas, equipment manufacturers and other businesses who have suffered from decreasing public access to Gulf red snapper in recent years,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director, in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Garret Graves (R-La.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) along with the Gulf states’ marine fisheries agencies’ directors for working diligently to pursue this action.”

The previous designated period for the 2017 recreational red snapper season in Gulf federal waters was scheduled for June 1-3, 2017.

In exchange for these additional fishing days, red snapper harvest will not be allowed in state or federal waters on Monday through Thursday during the summer (with the exception of holidays). Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas may have additional fishing days in state waters in the fall depending on harvest estimates from the summer season.

The rules change will apply only to recreational anglers–not commercial fishermen or charter fishing. Hopefully, this is a small but important win for true conservation. Hopefully angling rights will be reformed to allow for other types of anglers to safely and ethically harvest red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico too.

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