NOAA Fisheries announced that the 2017 Gulf of Mexico red snapper recreational seasons in federal waters will open for the private angling and federally permitted for-hire components on June 1, 2017. The private angler component season will be three days, and the federally permitted for-hire component season will be 49 days in federal waters. The private angling three-day season is the shortest red snapper season to date in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD), announced last month that Alabama’s waters will open for the recreational harvest of red snapper from Friday, May 26, through Monday, July 31, 2017. Alabama state waters extend 9 nautical miles from shore.
“We are greatly disappointed at the extremely limited federal red snapper season. The red snapper fishery off the coast of Alabama is phenomenal. For NOAA Fisheries to allow our anglers only three days to harvest red snapper from federal waters is ridiculous and unjustifiable,” said Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy, Jr.
“Alabama has built a great fishery and has worked diligently to rebuild this once overfished species. Now that the fishery is rebuilding, we are catching larger fish, and they are so plentiful that we are being penalized for our success. We need a radical change on federal red snapper management. Alabama will continue to work with Senator Shelby, Senator Strange and Congressman Byrne to pass legislation that will make real changes to how NOAA manages this fishery.
“The red snapper fishery means so much to Alabama’s economy. Every day the federal season is open helps businesses in Coastal Alabama,” said Commissioner Guy. “I am hopeful that once President Trump’s appointees are in place we will be able to discuss with them how federal overregulation on this, and other fisheries, is hurting the livelihood of so many people.”
“Alabama appreciates Senator Shelby’s work to provide funding for a new red snapper assessment, permanent extension of state waters to 9 miles and other initiatives in the 2016 budget and the proposed 2017 budget that will be voted on later this week,” said Deputy Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship.
“Congressman Byrne also championed the need for state management of the red snapper fishery at a House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform meeting today in Washington, D.C.,” Blankenship said. “He highlighted the leadership of the State of Alabama to affect change in this fishery as well as the need for legislative activity to fix this in the immediate future.”
Congressman Gary Palmer participated in the House Committee on Oversight meeting as well.
NOAA Fisheries, in the news release announcing the federal season, partially blamed the short federal season on longer state water seasons. However, only 8 percent of the red snapper catch was attributed to Alabama state waters for 2016.
Fishermen are reminded that they are still required to report their red snapper harvest through Snapper Check to the MRD during the federal and Alabama state seasons as well as any other time red snapper are landed in Alabama. This data will be key for getting NOAA to improve management. Only one report is required per vessel trip, and anglers can provide details via a smartphone app available under “Outdoor Alabama” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores; online at www.outdooralabama.com; or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches. The telephone reporting method is no longer available.
“The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will monitor the catch this year using Alabama Snapper Check. We will evaluate the Memorial Day-July season and decide on additional state water fishing days after reviewing the landings data,” said Blankenship.
A list of public artificial and natural reefs located in Alabama state waters as well as recent reef-building activity by MRD can be found at outdooralabama.com.