The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved Wednesday a 44-day season for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, slightly longer than the season last year. But, as the state moves toward more leniency, federal fishery management agencies are moving in the opposite direction, which has led Gov. Rick Scott and other lawmakers to push for more control on the state level.
Scott joined governors in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana in calling on Congress to allow the states full control of red snapper management, stating federal management practices “lack flexibility and undermine state fishery officials and local fishing communities.”
“As one of the top fishing destinations in the world, no one understands Florida fisheries better than state and local communities,” Scott said in a news release Wednesday. “State officials, working in partnership with local communities, are far better suited for protecting red snapper, while providing local economies with reasonable standards that allow families to pursue jobs in Florida's bountiful waters.”
The 44-day state snapper season is set to begin June 1 and end July 14 for snapper fishing in Florida state waters, which span nine nautical miles offshore.
Snapper season in federal waters will be determined by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which is meeting in Gulfport, Miss., this week. The council is looking at a 21-day season in Florida for 2013, one week shorter than last year.
The council originally proposed a 27-day season, but officials passed a rule that gives federal fisheries managers the authority to shorten the season if states adopt inconsistent seasons.
The FWC cited reports that an upcoming federal stock assessment likely will show a growing snapper population, coupled with comments from anglers on an improving fishery, as the reason for not complying with the 27-day federal proposal.
U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, hailed the FWC’s decision to move forward and also spoke in support of state fishery management.
“As federal red snapper seasons have gotten progressively shorter, more and more fishermen are being forced off the water and out of business,” Southerland said in a news release. “Today’s FWC decision proves that our state leaders have a better understanding of our fisheries’ challenges and opportunities than Washington ever will.”
Shorter season for some
Charter boat operators who hold federal permits still are facing a shorter season this year because of a federal Red Snapper Fishery Management Plan amendment that prohibits them from fishing for snapper in state waters when the federal season is closed.
Bob Zales, a local charter boat captain and president of the Panama City Boatmen Association, said that while the council is considering revoking the amendment, it won’t happen fast enough for this season.
Regardless, Zales said he was pleased by support from lawmakers to shift away from federal management.
“All of this activity is gaining more and more publicity,” Zales said. “With all these states doing this and all these Congressional members getting involved and understanding what we’ve been going through, I think it’s a good thing.”
An earlier version of this story is posted below:
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a 44-day season for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico this year at a meeting Wednesday.
The season will begin June 1 and end July 14 for snapper fishing in Florida state waters, which span nine miles offshore. Snapper season in federal waters will be determined this week by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The council is currently proposing a 21-day season for 2013, one week shorter than last year.