Fishermen angry over new cuts in red snapper season - - The News for South Mississippi

Fishermen angry over new cuts in red snapper season

Local fishermen are angry over new limits on when they can catch a species of fish they say is more plentiful than it has been in years.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council reduced the red snapper season from 40 days to 11 last month, and they've since cut it again, despite a comeback story that many anglers thought they would never see.

After it's numbers reached dangerous lows in the 1970s and 1980s, local fishermen have said for three years now, the red snapper is back.

"It's amazing - you don't need a fishing rod," said Capt C.T. Williams with Big Fish charters. "You can chum 'em up and freehand gaff 'em if you have to."

But the fishery management council has cut the red snapper fishing season to just nine, and that has made many fishermen angry.

"What's at issue is, why the government is doing this?" said Williams.

The council said the action was necessary because recreational fishermen exceeded their quota, but Sen. Mary Landrieu called the move reckless and claims the current regulatory system is "broken."

The new rules only apply in federal waters, and exactly where they begin in Louisiana is also subject of much debate.

"It's a territorial three," said Williams. "So the state says it's expanded that limit, but Washington won't acknowledge that, so a local fisherman who goes into those waters is taking a risk."

Williams said the new federal rules are too stringent. And, he said, the feds should turn management over to the states.

"The states do a fine job of managing the fisheries, so there's no reason they can't manage the Gulf," said Williams.

The new rules apply only to recreational fishermen. Each one can catch just two fish, and they each have to be more that 16 inches long, making some wonder if the trip is worth it.

While the nine-day season in federal waters begins on June 1, it's now open in state waters, where snapper is not as plentiful, further angering fishermen eager to catch red snapper, which they say is more plentiful than ever.

The change in season won't affect commercial fishermen, since each boat has its own quota.

Last year, Landrieu proposed a bill to transfer snapper management authority from the federal government to Gulf Coast states, but that bill appears stuck in committee.

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