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Members warn Gulf Coast red snapper season could be cut short

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly 40 Members of Congress from across the southeastern United States, including Rep. Earl L. "Buddy" Carter (R-GA), have asked U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) Secretary Gina Raimondo to direct the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to allow better science and improved access to red snapper fishing opportunities.

The letter expresses strong concerns from dozens of Members of Congress that NMFS is attempting to use flawed science and a one-size-fits-all approach that would undermine the successful state management of fisheries negotiated seven years ago. Further, the federal agency’s efforts would result in fewer fishing days for anglers in the Gulf States and adverse economic impacts.

Specifically, the NMFS proposal would require all state fisheries data to be converted into a single federal system that is less accurate than the current state management data. Even the National Academies identified deficiencies in this federal system. This “calibration” would result in distorted federal management recommendations and completely ignore the most advanced assessment of red snapper ever done, the “Great Red Snapper Count” - that showed triple the fish assumed by federal assessments.       

Congressman Garret Graves and Senator Roger Wicker spearheaded the letter in Congress.

“Red snapper is one of the most popular catches for Gulf anglers. The states have done a great job sustainably managing this important resource. States have the best available science and can make the best decisions for the species right off our coast – not someone in Washington, D.C. And, those pesky federal laws actually require the use of the best science. If NMFS’s deckhands would leave their cubicles and see the repercussions of their decisions, we wouldn’t need to keep having this discussion. Instead of providing common-sense proposals, they keep tying State and Federal management in a regulatory knot tighter than a Boy Scout could,” 
Graves said.

“NOAA’s proposed rule continues to rely on inaccurate federal data.  NOAA’s insistence on keeping a flawed approach needlessly erodes the trust of many anglers throughout the Gulf region. For Mississippi, this rule would cut recreational red snapper quotas by 60 percent. This is unacceptable.  I hope the Department of Commerce will reject this rule and agree to have a more thoughtful conversation with the Gulf states on this important issue,”
 Wicker said.

“We need a new approach to fishery management that embraces each states’ role, especially for red snapper,” Carter said. “This rule proposed by the NMFS ignores the important data collected by states that has proven successful. As the South Atlantic Red Snapper fishery rebuilds its population, we cannot allow for this change in the Gulf of Mexico’s management to serve as a precedent for the Atlantic coast.”

Read the full letter here