The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved Amendment 50 of the Reef Fishery Management Plan, granting individual Gulf states the authority to manage recreational fishing for red snapper within their own jurisdictional waters.
This action affirms extensive efforts on the part of Texas fisheries organizers and activists hoping that control over recreational fishing would become the responsibility of the state rather than federal government.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Gulf Council and National Marine Fisheries Service to improve recreational accountability and data collection, advance charter/for-hire solutions and protect the commercial fishing industry that provide seafood access to millions of Americans,” said a statement from the Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance.
Just a few months ago, negotiations for this new red snapper regulation plan were in danger of stalling due to the federal government shutdown.
In January, the National Marine Fisheries Association, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with offices in Galveston, was closed during the partial government shutdown ordered by the Trump administration. The association sets policy for red snapper fishing in Gulf waters and was in the final stages of negotiating with industry when the shutdown occurred.
The management plan approves moving oversight of recreational red snapper fishing to state agencies and was years and millions of dollars in the making.
Under the plan, fishing for red snapper by commercial fishermen and charters will remain under control of the federal government.
In Texas, the Department of Parks & Wildlife will be the state entity in charge of monitoring recreational fishing of red snapper, establishing the parameters of the season and setting catch limits.
“This will accommodate everyone’s wants and needs,” said Buddy Guindon, a member of the shareholders’ alliance and owner of Katie’s Seafood in Galveston.
Texas was in a pilot program for the new management plan, a compromise between government agencies and commercial fishermen designed to take stress off fishery waters. Had Amendment 50 not been approved, management of recreational fishing could have reverted back to the federal government, according to Seafood Harvesters of America for the Gulf Coast region.
Guindon and other stakeholders argued that states could better monitor snapper catches by recreational fishermen in their own waters through licensing and reporting requirements.
The red snapper catch among commercial fishermen, regulated by federal agencies, is managed under a plan allowing year-round access with a set quota that each commercial fisherman can harvest annually, Guindon said.
Under the approved state management plan, state regulators will work together with marine fisheries personnel to establish limits that support a sustainable supply of red snapper, according to the council.