State matches controversial fed move reducing snapper season

Florida has agreed to reduce the length of the red snapper season in state waters to match a federal measure to reduce the season’s length in federal waters.

Red snapper is a key species for recreational and commercial anglers. Federal efforts to reduce overfishing of snapper and group have created a political outcry among Florida politicians and fishing groups. Critics say the 2007 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act are overly restrictive in attempting to rebuild fish stocks.

HB 553 by Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, calls on Congress to consider “all available mechanisms” to reduce the impact of grouper and snapper fishing restrictions. U. S. Sen. Bill Nelson, R-Melbourne, introduced bills in February to block the regulations. The NOAA Fisheries Service on Thursday published a final rule reducing the Gulf of Mexico red snapper season from 75 days last year to 54 days this year. The season begins June 1 and ends on July 24. The total allowed catch is increasing 40 percent to 6.9 million pounds.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Thursday to match the federal season to provide consistency. Gulf red snapper stocks are rebuilding but are still considered to be undergoing overfishing, the state agency said.

The Ocean Conservancy issued a statement saying that Florida anglers should feel good about the “critical” agency vote. “Making science-based management decisions will keep Florida the home of world-class fishing and healthy, vibrant coastal economies,” said Elizabeth Fetherston, the groups southeast fish conservation manager.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)