The Gulf’s red snapper fishery will divide the recreational segment into two parts: charter-for-hire and recreational vessels.
Changes are in store for red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, as a vote by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved Amendment 40, which divides the recreational quota for the fish into two portions: private anglers and charter boats.
Historically, the Gulf area red snapper rules were separated into two segments: commercial and recreational. The vote on Amendment 40 now further splits the recreational sector.
All five Gulf states were opposed to Amendment 40 because they wanted to seek different ways to manage red snappers. However, preliminary information showed there would be a tie vote with eight for and eight against. A tie breaker would be in the hands of the National Marine Fisheries Southeast Regional Director. The director indicated that if one state would change its vote to “yes,” he would vote for a sunset clause.
The sunset clause allows Amendment 40 to expire in three years unless voted on again by the council. This would allow time for the states to work with the council on regional red snapper management instead of having it dictated by the federal court.
Alabama considered this and reluctantly changed the state’s vote to “yes,” thereby also getting the sunset provision approved.
The charter industry is pushing to reduce the bag limit to one red snapper per day in order to lengthen the season. The recreational anglers are opposed to this due to the high cost of getting to good red snapper waters for a one-day trip. This is one instance where different management strategies for the charter sector could be positive.
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One of the problems concerning season length was that some states refused to comply with federal guidelines. Texas maintains year-round snapper fishing, Louisiana has a year-round season inside state water boundaries (which go out to nine miles), Florida and Mississippi have short seasons in state waters and Alabama had a weekend-only season this past July.
Amendment 40 means the charter boats will not be affected by whatever the states do for the next three years, so they can still take their customers fishing.