Destin charter boat captains may get a longer red snapper season.
Not 24 hours after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a 44-day season for red snapper in state waters, the Gulf Council took steps Thursday to help out the federally permitted charter boats to fish those 44 days as well.
"We voted 9-6 on an emergency rule that would rescind Amendment 30B," said Destin's Pam Dana who sits on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
Destin captains appeared thrilled by the news.
"Getting rid of 30B will help the charter boats," said Capt. Mike Eller of the charter boat Lady Em. "And as far as I'm concerned, I've got a 44-day red snapper season.”
"It's a short term gain, for a long term fix," Eller added.
The 44-day state snapper season is set to begin June 1 and end July 14 in Florida waters, which extend nine nautical miles offshore. The federal season could be as short as 17 days starting June 1. The differing state and federal seasons would hit charter boat captains especially hard because of Amendment 30B.
The amendment in the Reef Fish Regulations says federally permitted vessels are prohibited from landing red snapper in state waters when the federal season is closed.
"The Gulf Council took bold steps yesterday," said Capt. Jim Green of the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit. "This is a morale booster. The federally permitted vessels have been blanketed by this for almost five years now. It has been divisive among recreational fishermen.
“It has driven a wedge between for-hire vessels and recreational fishermen that do not utilize their services,” Green added. “With the removal of this provision it puts us back proverbially in the same boat, as all fishermen, no matter if they are on their own boat or a federally permitted vessel, are considered recreational fishermen."
Roy Crabtree, who is the Regional Administrator of the NMFS, argued that it couldn't be done "without an emergency," she said.
But Dana said 30B is “an unfair provision to begin with” — one that "presents an economic crisis" for those that would be prohibited from fishing in state waters, as well as be cut to a possible 17 day season in federal waters.
The provision will now go to the federal registry and will be open for public comment. Those interested can make their comments at www.gulfcouncil.org.
"Our goal is to get it passed by June 1," Dana said. "But it is not a done deal… It is the council’s intent to have it overturned.”