Gulf Anglers, Fishery Managers Clash Over Red Snapper Opening in Federal Waters

May 31, 2017
Originally published on May 30, 2017 2:03 pm

Despite a months-long season for red snapper in state waters off Florida and other Gulf states, fisherman across the Gulf of Mexico are gearing up to protest a brief three-day opening to catch the prized fish in federal Gulf waters. Fishermen argue a short opening hurts businesses and hampers anglers across the Gulf, but fishery managers say a small window is important to preserve a species still recovering from overfishing.

Florida state waters extend nine miles off shore in the Gulf of Mexico; beyond that, the federal government has jurisdiction over what fish can be caught, and when. Within Florida waters, FWC approved 78 days for catching red snapper. Similar seasons are found in other Gulf states like Alabama, while Texas allows for year-round red snapper fishing off it's Gulf coast.

On June 1, federal regulations will allow just three days for recreational fisherman to tackle red snapper in federal waters in the Gulf. Deeper federal waters are where red snapper is usually found in Southwest Florida, while Florida's panhandle is deep enough that fishermen can usually catch the fish within the 9-mile state boundary.

Will Ward, a former board member of the Gulf Fisherman's Association and an advisor to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, joins the show to explain the overfishing and recovery efforts of red snapper since the 1980s, the complex interplay of state and federal fish management, and why some fishermen in the Gulf are protesting while others see the short federal opening as nothing more than small fry.

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