OK, so the decision has been made.
Gulf of Mexico recreational fishermen will get a nine-day red snapper season – June 1 through June 9 – when they head out into federal waters.
Yeah, the decision is over, but the shouting isn’t, not when Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is campaigning on “the Hill” for passage of her Red Snapper Conservation Act.
When NOAA Fisheries’ decision on the shortest-ever recreational red snapper season was announced May 14, Landrieu and Coastal Conservation Association-Louisiana boss man David Cresson visited with Sen. Mark Begich, D-AK, to try to get the RSCA through the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. Begich heads that subcommittee.
Landrieu has made no bones about her piece of legislation: Her bill is crafted to remove federal red snapper management and give it to the five Gulf States fishery managers.
Cresson’s reaction to this extraordinarily short number of days echoed what most of the state’s tens of thousands of offshore anglers have been saying for years.
“This year, we are facing a drastically short nine-day red snapper season for the public to go fishing for this abundant and popular fish. This is unacceptable for recreational anglers and the coastal economies that depend on them,” Cresson said.
That much is obvious.
What’s more rankling in all this is that another year of drama, another year when three different season lengths were offered – remember when NOAA Regional Administrator Roy Crabtree announced a 40-day season late last year? – and leaves recreational fishermen wondering more and more what the end game is with this species.
All this moaning, all this disgruntled reaction, all the anger generated over this species comes in a week when federal data collection folks tangled with Alabama folks who study red snapper on hundreds of artificial reefs off the Alabama coast.
What appears to have happened in this tete-a-tete is that the Alabama folks assessed the red snapper stocks on these reefs and found staggering numbers, a population that the federal folks admit they don’t count in their data of the overall recovery of Gulf red snapper.
More disturbing is when the federal managers say they count the catch from these reefs in their formula of determining the recreational catch.
Louisiana is familiar with this scenario. Oil and gas platforms off the Louisiana coast hold thousands of snapper, maybe too many to get an accurate population estimate. Somehow in this amazing recovery of this species, these man-made structures have never showed up, mostly because the feds repeatedly have said they don’t sample these areas, at least not to the extent that the numbers of snapper show up in recovery data.
When combined with NOAA’s announcement, it’s easy to understand Landrieu’s reaction.
“(Wednesday’s) reckless announcement of a nine-day red snapper season severely hurts our fishermen and the Gulf economy. After Louisiana’s successful efforts to collect data and manage our red snapper fisheries, it’s maddening to have a federal agency tell our local fishermen that they will be unfairly subjected to the shortest red snapper season in history,” Landrieu said in a prepared statement.
“Given the rising stocks of red snapper a nine-day season is unthinkable, and it’s a stark reminder that the old system governing recreational fishing for red snapper is unquestionably broken,” she added.
Landrieu further explained that the Red Snapper Conservation Act is designed to “transfer management of red snapper out of the federal bureaucracy and into the hands of the Gulf State officials who work with our fishermen on a daily basis. Coastal economies rely on charter operators, marinas and recreational anglers to pump $12 billion into the Gulf economy every year, and they deserve regular, reliable seasons.”
THERE’S OTHER NEWS
Louisiana is one of a handful of places where fishing is 24/7/365, but, like other places, the big kickoff to summer fishing happens on Memorial Day weekend, the three-day holiday when we’re supposed to remember those men and women who gave their lives in defense of your country.
Memorial Day is the start of CCA-Louisiana’s summer-long Statewide Tournament and Angler’s Rodeo – The S.T.A.R. There are four geographic divisions for speckled trout, a new Chevy pickup for the first angler to catch one of 50 specially tagged redfish, youth-only and women-only divisions, one for kayakers, and several other species categories.
That same weekend will make the reopening of Port Eads, a legendary port reachable only by boat near the mouth of the Mississippi River. More on this historic place in next week’s blog.