A proposal calling for state stewardship of the combative red snapper industry in federal Gulf waters moved forward last week in a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing for natural resources.
» U.S Rep. Jeff Miller (right): "Anglers continue to be hit with the shortest recreational seasons on record.”
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller said fishermen are "justifiably outraged" at federal agencies that operate fisheries.
"The failed management has done significant economic harm to [Gulf] communities who rely on billions of dollars anglers spend annually," Miller told the Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs subcommittee. "This is clearly a cry for help.”
Miller, representing the 1st District, is co-sponsor of a bi-partisan bill that seeks to end decision-making on red snapper quotas by the federal Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, a part of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the bill, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission would develop a red snapper management plan and take control of the fishery after certain conservation conditions are met.
“As a result of the current federal management of Gulf red snapper, we have witnessed lawsuit after lawsuit," Miller, a Pinellas County native, testified. "Anglers continue to be hit with the shortest recreational seasons on record and are justifiably outraged.”
The bill, called the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act of 2013, was written in September 2013. The Gulf Council approved a controversial "sector separation" measure this past October.
Under sector separation, recreational anglers, who previously were allowed 49 percent of the federal catch for red snapper, were divided into two groups with new rules: charter/for-hire and private anglers. The commercial fishing sector retained 51 percent of the federal catch.
Red Snapper is considered overfished by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Advocates for fisherman, including the Coastal Conservation Association, say there is evidence of steadily increasing stocks.
Since 1996, the recreational season for red snapper has progressively shortened -- down to nine days last June.