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NOLA Defender: Sen. Landrieu’s Act protects Gulf’s red snapper anglers

June 17, 2013

After successfully sinking Senator McCain’s foreign catfish campaign, Senator Mary Landrieu aims to leave another piece of federal seafood regulation swimming with the fishes. Landrieu and her Republican colleague, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, introduced an act to keep management authority of the Gulf Coast’s red snapper within the region, rather than with the feds.

Red snapper was historically overfished, but the species' population returned to sustainable levels in the 1980s. Now, regulators calculate the length of the season each year using a formula based on the average weight and number of fish caught.

But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announced new regulations that cut red snapper season to 28 days. Louisiana, Texas and Florida, then revolted, announcing they wouldn't adhere to the federal regulations. A defiant Louisiana said their season would be 88 days. In turn, the feds shot back, limiting the Bayou State season to a mere nine days.

The catch proved to be too big for the two sides to work out, so a judge was called on to reel the two parties in. Louisiana and Texas sued the feds in April for shortening the season, and retaliation.

On June 6, a Brownsville, Texas, judge decided the feds were the ones tugging too hard, and ruled that all snapper seasons must be equal. As a result, seasons for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Florida have all been extended to 28 days.

But Landrieu apparently thinks the court ruling isn't enough to keep the feds in line. The Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act of 2013 aims to transfer management authority of the region’s red snapper to the Gulf Coast, away from the feds. According to Landrieu, men and women in the fishing industry are at a disadvantage, with limited access and erratic seasons.

“Federal management of the recreational Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery is ineffective and unpredictable,” said Landrieu. “This year, Louisiana anglers were given only nine days, the shortest ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation, applauded Landrieu for her work in introducing the bill. "Red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico has hit rock bottom," said Angers. "Sen. Landrieu's leadership brought together the stakeholders and crafted a balanced solution to an otherwise intractable situation.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) shortened recreational red snapper seasons for anglers in Texas to twelve days, Louisiana to nine days, and Florida to 22.

While the act awaits a verdict in the Senate, a three-year prohibition on further quota reduction has been placed to protect the commercial fishing industry, as well as restaurants that depend on red snapper.

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