09/22/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/22/2021 13:49
"Back in March we confirmed the red snapper populations in U.S. coastal waters was 110 million red snapper - roughly three times more than previously estimated (approximately 36 million). We've made it a point to fully equip the Gulf States with more science and independent data to improve the management of this species, so we don't lose ground on the success we've made in conservation efforts," Graves said. "And this is incredible news for Louisiana's anglers, both recreational and charter alike. We still need to bring aid to the fishing industry and even restaurants due to Hurricane Ida to help offset losses, but this will help bring some short-term comfort to folks that are looking for any angle to keep their business afloat."
Background on the data that enabled the extension and bag increase:
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council gave management authority for private recreational red snapper fishing to Louisiana and the other Gulf states in April of 2019, beginning with the 2020 fishing season. This was due to the Modern Fish Act that Graves led in the U.S. House.
According to LDWF's near real-time landings data collection program (LA Creel), it is estimated that 587,801 pounds or 70 percent of Louisiana's 2021 annual private recreational allocation of 832,493 pounds have been harvested during the 2021 red snapper season. The season will remain open until LA Creel estimates indicate the allocation is within reach. LDWF closed the current season on September 7 to allow staff an opportunity to analyze harvest limits. LA Creel data indicates there is approximately 30 percent, or 244,692 pounds, of red snapper remaining for anglers to harvest this year.
In March 2021, Graves penned a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to make her aware of the federal government's inability to be efficient and ability to be behind the ball on state management of recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. The letter raised the point that because of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act (MSA) and the Modern Fish Act, there should be accurate data collection used for recalibration - especially with only two months before the opening of the 2021 red snapper season.
That same week in March, the announced Gulf of Mexico Great Red Snapper Count turned the corner on improving this access to fishing opportunities by cutting back on the strict fishing seasons and two-fish limit, putting the reels in the hands of our anglers more often. At the time the Gulf of Mexico Great Red Snapper Count was announced, Graves said:
"In 2016, we won the battle to wrestle control of flawed red snapper management from the federal government. We now have better fish management, better access to fishing and improved economic activity. The Modern Fish Act, our bill to require the inclusion of recreational fisheries and better data in fish management practices, became law in 2018. Then in December 2020, the DESCEND Act become law which will help mitigate half a million red snapper deaths due to barotrauma (rapid pressure changes). Without a doubt, we are going to see more fish, more fishing opportunities in the Gulf, more tourism and better sustainability of our fisheries.
"Years of working toward these wins will pay off for our conservation efforts, get anglers some more time on the water, and more red snapper in the ice chest for good eating. I appreciate all of the support and hard work of the Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfish Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, TRCP and all the anglers out there that are the true conservationists that want to ensure fishing opportunities for generations to come. We've created a foundation for successful state management of the species through our previous legislation and the results are reflective of the progress we have made."
In April 2021, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council decided to delay implementing calibration of Gulf State's allocation of red snapper until January 2023. Graves statement then :
"The Gulf Council decision today is absolutely the right one and shows that they realize that it would be virtually impossible to explain to the public how in the world you could have the assessment that just came out - the latest assessment using the best science - showing that there is triple the Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, then in the same breath go and cut the amount of fishing days available to our recreational fishers. I'm glad that they listened to the message of our letter urging them toward this correct and defendable resource management decision."