Officials propose shortest red snapper season ever - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Officials propose shortest red snapper season ever

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Meggan Gray – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - First, it was a two-fish a day limit.  Now, federal officials are tightening the restrictions on red snapper even more, by proposing the shortest snapper season ever. It's the last thing charter boat captains and commercial fishermen needed to hear at a time when business is already slow.

Fishermen will only have 54 days this summer to catch one of the Gulf's most sought-after fish.  Federal officials say the 54-day cap, along with a two-a-day limit is necessary to prevent red snapper from being over fished.

"Fishermen are very upset," said Captain Tom Becker, president of Mississippi's Charter Boat Captains Association. "They're knocking a lot of people out of business."

Becker has been in the charter boat industry for almost 25 years.  He said last year, snapper season was 65 days.  Two years before that, it was 194 days. 

"The proposal for the 54 day snapper season will have a great impact. We're going to have people that want to snapper fishing, now we're going to have them all jammed at the front. Now we're going to have more like a derby to get it done in that time," Becker said.

He is convinced the numbers used to set the season, just don't add up.

"I know it's wrong; everybody does. We're really upset." As Becker explained, "The stock is healthy, but they go on an average weight. So the weight of the size of fish has increased even though they said we have been over fishing them."

Becker has seen firsthand how the strict regulations are already impacting his business.  Last year, his bookings were slashed in half. The economy is partly to blame, but he said it's not looking much better for 2010.

"We just sit there and shake our head, and you know we try and try to talk to them, and so far it's like talking to a wall."

Again, this 54-day snapper season is merely a proposal right now.  Public comments will be accepted through April 14th. Captain Tom Becker said the best way local fishermen can get involved is by talking to your congressmen or by posting a comment on regulations.gov.

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