Under a plan agreed to by the five states of the northern Gulf of Mexico and federal fisheries agencies, states are being given more power in managing the red snapper fishery. 

According to Matt Hill, the finfish bureau director for Mississippi’s Department of Marine Resources, the agency has taken the first steps in the process by requesting an exempted fishing permit and submitting a management plan to the federal Gulf of Mexico Marine Fisheries Council.

“It was approved by the Gulf Council, and we’re awaiting approval from the national marine council,” Hill said. “It includes a detailed management plan, asking for a poundage quota for both 2018 and 2019 based on historical data, how we want to set our season and how we would shut down the season if the quota was exceeded.”

An agency representative said the state had requested a quota of 137,949 pounds.

Final federal approval is not expected until mid April.

The next step, Hill said, would be providing the Commission on Marine Resources, the state panel that oversees DMR, with information including different season proposals, including a staff recommendation.  

Hill said the new, state-based management plan was a result of a deal states reached with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce after the 2017 federal season was set at just three days. The deal allowed states to expand the 2017 season to 39 days, which in Mississippi was spread over weekends and holidays between June 1 and Labor Day in September.

“This year, we were expecting a federal recreational fishing season of zero days,” Hill said. “I can’t tell you how many days the Mississippi season will be at this point, or if we will have a season like we did last year open just on weekends, but we want our fishermen to have every opportunity and option they can get.”