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 an op-ed published by Yellowhammer last year.