Mississippi’s offshore sport fishermen, reeling from the announcement of an 11-day red snapper season, which could yet be shortened again, can learn more about and provide input into the federal fishery management of the Gulf of Mexico at a meeting May 6 in Biloxi.
Billed as a Red Snapper Summit by the sponsoring Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the event will be held at the Biloxi Civic Center, adjacent to the library at 578 Howard Avenue.
According to DMR, the objective is to:
* solicit input on management of the red snapper recreational fishery and data collection methods
* inform attendees on the history of the red snapper recreational fishery
* and inform attendees on the recent decision by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to reduce the length of the season.
A Council representative will give a presentation on the state of red snapper in the Gulf and the various fishery management alternatives. Following the presentation, attendees can participate in a facilitated discussion to provide their input on potential management of the snapper fishery. That information will be provided to the Council, which is responsible for setting harvest criteria, including limits and seasons.
Color at least one Mississippi angler as doubtful of the Summit’s impact.
“I appreciate the effort, but, really what can the state do about federal limits or what other states are doing that is costing us so many days,” said Johnny Ladner, a fisherman from Hancock County. “I’m going, but I will have to bite my lip because once I get started I will vent ... and, then, I will vent some more ... and, then we will get a chain reaction.
“That might make us feel better, getting it off our chests, but what good could it possibly do. Everybody knows this mess is too screwed up to fix.”
Federal snapper management practices and commercial/recreational allocations have long been controversial, but it reached a peak in the last 18 months.
Texas and Florida have had open snapper seasons outside the federal season in their in-state waters for years. In 2013, Louisiana joined them and also extended its state boundaries further into the Gulf. Mississippi and Alabama are the only Gulf States that are compliant to federal seasons.
Fish caught during those state-specific seasons count against the Gulf of Mexico’s total quota and the recreational quota. Since that quota is divided between commercial and recreational fishing, commercial fishermen went to court and they won.
A recent U.S. District Court decision in the Washington, D.C., sided with the commercial fishermen, who claimed the Council had allowed recreational fishermen to exceed their quota in six of the last seven years.
That decision came just days before the Council was set to announce its quotas for 2014. The Council had already set a 40-day recreational red snapper season set to open June 1.
According to a Council spokesperson, the Council on April 10 had to ask the National Marine Fisheries Service for an emergency ruling to change the recreational season, which was reduced to 11 days.
But, the spokesperson said it “was likely” to be reduced to nine days, since Louisiana’s state-specific season catch would have to be factored into the total recreational quota.
“All I can say for sure today (April 29) is that the season is scheduled to open June 1 in federal waters,” said the Council’s Charlene Ponce. “I can not say for sure how many days it will last.”