Campaign Updates

U.S. House passes Byrne’s red snapper fishing reforms, despite Obama veto threat

Posted on June 2nd, 2015

Source – Yellowhammer

By Elizabeth Beshears

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House passed Tuesday reforms to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act sponsored by Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1).

Among the changes proposed by Rep. Byrne, provisions included in the bill would repeal the inflexible quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper fishery, extend state water boundaries for each Gulf state to nine nautical miles, and remove data collection and stock assessments from federal control.

“Tonight was a big win for Red Snapper fishermen in the Gulf and fishermen all across the country,” Byrne said after the vote Monday afternoon. “These provisions were designed to give the Gulf states control over the science and data collection as it relates to Red Snapper, and I believe that with better data and more flexibility for fisheries managers, we can get back to having a real Red Snapper season in the Gulf.”

The federal system estimated that 1,000,041 pounds of red snapper were landed in 2014, while the Alabama system estimated that just 418,000 pounds were landed. As a result, the thousands of private recreational fisherman who fish for red snapper off the Alabama Gulf Coast were only allowed to do so for nine days out of the entire year. If the local numbers are more accurate, which they are according to expert testimony before Congress in November, the red snapper season should have been roughly twice as long as it was.

According to Rep. Byrne, NOAA so severely underestimates the number of Red Snapper in the Gulf because the agency doesn’t sample for the fish on reefs. “That is absurd considering Red Snapper are reef fish,” Byrne said in anop-ed published by Yellowhammer last year.

The 2014 Red Snapper season was considered a complete disaster by Gulf fishers. The season only lasted 9 days, during which time only two Red Snapper per day were allowed to be caught be each fisher.

The 2015 Red Snapper season is currently underway, lasting a mere 10 days this year, but hundreds of Alabama anglers are spending time on the Gulf Coast to enjoy the season while it lasts. Former University of Alabama running back and Heisman Winner Mark Ingram showed off his catch on Twitter Sunday.

In addition to adopting reasonable and responsible regulations to manage the Gulf’s Red Snapper population, it is this surge of tourism and interest that legislators are hoping to preserve.

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby (R) warned earlier this year that the federal government’s regulations were damaging the state’s economy.

“Year after year, commercial and recreational anglers have fewer fishing opportunities due to NOAA’s misguided practices regarding red snapper,” said Senator Shelby. “The red snapper fishery is a key economic driver and is integral to the way of life on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The federal government’s failure to properly oversee red snapper stocks has a damaging impact on fishermen and businesses alike, which is why I will continue to fight for improved management, sounder science, and more accurate data to help commercial and recreational fishermen gain increased access to the robust red snapper population on the Gulf.”

Another Alabama Representative, Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) spoke out in support of Rep. Byrne’s effort Tuesday following the House vote.

“Fishing is important in Alabama, both for commerce and for recreation,” Palmer said. “This bill will provide for more opportunities for Alabamians to have a stronger voice in the process of deciding how our fisheries are managed by replacing the current one-size-fits-all approach to a state managed approach that requires state and local data in decision-making… These improvements will be an economic boon to Alabama’s fisherman as well as the public consumer.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, but is facing a veto from President Obama whose office said the Magnuson-Stevens Act renewal would, “impose arbitrary and unnecessary requirements that would harm the environment and the economy.”