BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant on Monday announced a new grant of $28 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This money will go toward three new BP restoration projects across South Mississippi. A portion of that will provide a study of certain fish populations. Some fishermen on the coast are hoping it will change several current regulations.
The Federal Red Snapper season has gone through some major changes in recent years. About a decade ago, it was six months long. Then it was reduced to 60 days, 30 days, and finally, this year the season was only nine days long.
"It makes it to where it's almost not worth going out," said attorney Robert Wilkinson.
Wilkinson considers himself an avid fisherman. He said the reduction in season-length is due to the Fishery Management Council's ruling that the Red Snapper population was over-fished.
"Most people believe that the science behind these regulations, these short seasons, is simply not supported by reality," said Wilkinson.
He thinks a Reef Assessment Program would find that Snapper and other reef fish are abundant in our Gulf waters. He hopes that data would encourage officials to change current regulations.
Now, with such a reduced season, he's decided to take his Red Snapper trips to Alabama, and he's not the only one. A study he saw a few years ago compared Mississippi's Red Snapper catch with Alabama's.
"Mississippi accounted for three percent. Out of five states, we were three percent. Alabama was 38 percent," said Wilkinson.
Dr. Bruner Bosio occasionally joins Wilkinson on his trips. He believes in conservation of wildlife, "but I think they've gone overboard, they've gone too far."
Bosio said the few days they are able to go out, there are a lot of good-sized Snapper.
The limited time available to fish has also limited the number of fishermen on the water.
"I don't think near as many people, this year, have gone fishing," said Bosio.
It's something that he hopes to see change in coming years, for multiple reasons, including the potential impact on local economy.
"And, it's a good time, and plus they're good to eat," said Bosio.
Wilkinson owns several artificial, private reefs in Alabama, which is something he says is not currently allowed in Mississippi. He's hoping this study will help to change that regulation as well.
The study is expected to take two years to complete.