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Gulf States Now Rule Red Snapper Seas

Red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico usually begins June 1 each year. The number of days recreational anglers are allowed to fish in federal waters had been determined by the federal government until recently.

Red snapper season now will be determined by the five Gulf states most affected — a historic decision made by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in a meeting April 1. Research and input from Harte Research Institute for the Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi played a key role in shaping the new policy. The ruling takes effect with the 2020 season.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and similar state agencies in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida will work together to determine the length of red snapper season in federal waters. The season usually begins June 1. The number of days for recreational, charter, and commercial fishing all differ and depend on harvest numbers from the previous year.

The 2018 and 2019 seasons were determined by the states in a two-year experiment put in place by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency in charge of fisheries management. A $12 million NOAA grant helped pay for Harte Research Institute’s Great Red Snapper Count, which assessed the Gulfwide population of red snapper.

“Management of red snapper under current federal law was commendable in recovering the severely overfished red snapper,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, senior executive director at Harte. “However, the strategies employed have been unnecessarily harsh, eventually resulting in just a three-day season for snapper. Recovering the red snapper is also possible while securing the economies of coastal communities and allowing reasonable access to anglers.”

Under the new rules, each of the five Gulf states will be allocated the portion of the recreational quota it initially requested in the 2018-19 exempted fishing permit application. The allocations are: Alabama, 26.298 percent; Florida, 44.822 percent; Louisiana, 19.120 percent; Mississippi, 3.550 percent; and Texas, 6.210 percent.

The states also will establish the bag limit, minimum size limit, and maximum size limit. Each of the five Gulf states also might opt to close areas of federal waters adjacent to that state by making a request to the fisheries council. Final approval by the U.S. secretary of commerce for these new rules is expected soon.

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