Gulf Council Approves State Management for Red Snapper

CCA Members, 
Today’s passage of Amendment 50 (state management) by the Gulf Council is HUGE news for coastal anglers as it will allow Louisiana and the other Gulf States to manage their own private recreational red snapper anglers.  CCA and our members have been working for state management of red snapper for years, and today’s vote is the culmination of those years of hard work by many individuals and groups.
Without this vote today, gulf anglers would have faced a return in 2020 to the system that gave us a 3-day snapper season just two years ago.
The idea for state management was championed years ago by CCA Louisiana, members of the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, staff at Wildlife and Fisheries, and legislators like Senator Bret Allain and Representative Stuart Bishop.  Despite severe opposition by anti-angler groups, the concept was advanced by friends like Congressman Garret Graves, Louisiana Gulf Council members Camp Matens and J.D. Dugas, and conservation partners like the Center for Sportfishing Policy, theCongressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.  In recent years, state management has proven to be far superior to the broken federal system through programs like LA Creel and the ongoing 2018-19 Exempted Fishing Permit seasons.
CCA Louisiana would like to thank the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the WLF Commission for their leadership and partnership in this endeavor.  Our sincere appreciation goes also to Governor John Bel Edwards, as well as members of the previous administration, for their common commitment to the concept of state management.  Special thanks also to our colleagues at CCA Texas, CCA Mississippi, CCA Alabama, CCA Florida, and the political leaders in those states who led this charge.
But most of all, credit for today’s vote goes to Louisiana anglers, who “put their money where there mouth is” years ago to pay for the superior LA Creel program. Without that, today’s vote would have never happened.
Today is a great day, but our work is not done. There will be more fisheries battles ahead, and CCA will continue to lead the way for the resource and for anglers.

News Release
For Immediate Release
April 4, 2019

Red Snapper State Management Passes Final Vote
A Victory for Louisiana Recreational Anglers

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries received the go ahead today to manage the popular red snapper in both state and federal waters, a major victory for the state’s private anglers who will now have a larger voice about the harvest of the prized catch.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC), meeting in Biloxi, Miss., voted unanimously to give Louisiana total control of private recreational red snapper fishing, meaning recreational anglers will have increased opportunities to harvest red snapper, a species once nearly depleted in the Gulf.
What happens now?
State management will begin with the 2020 private recreational red snapper season. Anglers should see fishing seasons similar to what they experienced in 2018 and 2019.
The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will establish rules for the state’s red snapper fishery. The department will manage the resource effectively and have the ability to close the season quickly, when needed, to prevent overfishing.
The Commission now has the authority to set seasons, bag and size limits, and other management regulations for private recreational red snapper fishing in federal waters (out to 200 nautical miles).
“This decision is the result of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ directive to me and the LDWF staff to get this done for our anglers,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “Now we will show that Louisiana can manage efffectively and that we have all of the intangibles to make this work.”
Gov. Edwards, an avid fisherman, said, that the vote is extra special for him.
“This is a victory for our anglers,” Gov. Edwards said today. “Very shortly, they will be able to spend more time fishing for red snapper on the water in our beautiful Sportsman’s Paradise. One of my goals is to have our state manage red snapper in both state and federal waters. I’m very thankful to our Wildlife and Fisheries leadership, our anglers, congressional delegation and fishing organizations who helped to make this happen.”
LDWF also fought successfully at the Gulf Council meeting for Louisiana’s historical 19.1 percent of the private recreational red snapper quota, which will result in an allocation of 816,439 pounds in 2019. By comparison, Louisiana private anglers caught approximately 738,000 pounds during the 2018 season.
The state management amendment, passed today, will require any Gulf state that exceeds its quota in a season to “pay it back” the following year or allow the carry over of uncaught quota the following season.
Patrick Banks, the assistant secretary of fisheries, who has lead the negotiations at the Gulf Council, said the old system of federal management often left Louisiana anglers at a disadvantage. Weather was usually better in the eastern Gulf which allowed anglers in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi to have a greater chance of catching their quota than Louisiana anglers.
“Now we have a certain amount of fish reserved just for us. Our Wildlife and Fisheries Commission sets the season for our anglers to catch that set amount of fish and they can set that season whenever they want that best fits our anglers and ensures responsible harvest levels,” Banks said.
Reaching this pivotal point in fisheries management has been years in the making. Efforts began at the June 2016 GMFMC meeting in Florida, where LDWF guided the successful passage of a motion to begin work on a plan to establish state management of red snapper for the private recreational fishing sector.
(The GMFMC is a 17-member group representing Louisiana, Texas Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. It is responsible for developing and monitoring fishery management plans to provide for the best use of the fishery resources in the Gulf of Mexico.)
The department has worked with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the Gulf Council to provide Louisiana’s private recreational anglers with 42 days of red snapper fishing in federal waters in 2017 and 60 days in 2018, an increase from the 11 days available in 2016, when LDWF first began working on this plan.
Louisiana is currently operating under its second year of an Exempted Fishing Permit, which authorizes activities that would otherwise be prohibited by federal fishery regulations, for limited testing, data collection, exploratory fishing and other purposes. Under this two-year pilot EFP study, the private recreational red snapper fishing season structure was delegated to LDWF.
The EFP allowed LDWF to collect data from anglers on how they want to distribute their effort and whether electronic reporting can help decrease uncertainty around our harvest estimate. Under the EFP, the department was able to gather these data without impacting other states and without sacrifices from our participants.
The foundation of state management was established through LA Creel, which closely monitors recreational landings of red snapper. Voluntary electronic reporting, through the LDWF mobile phone app, is being tested to further bolster the catch and effort data collected by LA Creel. NOAA Fisheries announced the certification of LA Creel survey design in December 2017. LA Creel is a critical component to managing red snapper harvest because it makes landings data available more quickly than was possible with NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) and is more flexible and responsive to management needs.
A significant benefit of the EFP working in combination with LA Creel was that Louisiana private anglers had their own quota that included both state and federal waters. Previously, NOAA estimated how long it would it would take for anglers throughout the gulf to harvest the quota based on prior years’ information. Those estimates were unable to take current conditions into account, leading to over-runs.
This high effort would force NOAA to establish short federal seasons. Louisiana anglers had less opportunity to fish, and anglers across the Gulf were feeling forced to go out more often than normal because of the short seasons. Parsing out Louisiana’s quota through historical averages removed us from the ‘race for fish’ and allows us to catch our own quota at our own pace.
Louisiana will continue to manage the red snapper season in a responsible fashion by utilizing LA Creel data to closely monitor harvest to close the season once our quota is met. LDWF continues to encourage anglers to participate in voluntary electronic reporting of their red snapper fishing activities.