Update: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has officially approved a 44-day recreational red snapper season for state waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The season will begin June 1 and end July 14 for snapper fishing in Florida state waters, which span nine miles offshore. Snapper season in federal waters has now been set to run for 26 days, beginning June 1st, 2013.
Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets to vote on the 2013 recreational red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of debate about the red snapper population, and the federal authorities at the National Marine Fisheries Service have drafted laws that have progressively shortened red snapper season in order to rebuild the population.
The population of red snapper has grown faster than anyone has anticipated, and here in the Florida Panhandle you almost can’t fish for anything without reeling in a red snapper (that you then have to release). So, this year when the federal commission proposed a 28 day season, beginning June 1st, the state proposed bucking the system and opening the season for 44 days instead to increase recreational access to red snapper. In response, the National Marine Fisheries Service has said that if the state votes to open recreational red snapper fishing in state waters, they will decrease red snapper fishing in federal waters by decreasing the proposed 28 day season to only 22 days to account for the overfishing in state waters.
So, we have the state setting rules for state waters, over which they have jurisdiction, and the feds setting rules over federal waters, which begin 9 miles out from shore.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
Federally licensed charter boats must obey federal rules EVEN IF THEY ONLY FISH IN STATE WATERS. Want to know why charter boat captains are up in arms over this? That’s why. Leaving the recreational season open in state waters effectively punishes charter boat captains who 1. can’t take advantage of the longer season in state waters and 2. suffer from a shortened red snapper season in federal waters because of the increased days in state waters.
To further complicate matters, there are a lot of questions surrounding the federal data collection methods which determine whether or not red snapper populations are diminishing. Today’s meeting will also discuss how to improve recreational data collection methods.
On the flip side, an extended Florida red snapper season could be good news for the smaller charter boats that typically don’t have a federal license, and for private boat owners and fishing boat rental operators, who will benefit from being able to fish during the extended season.
To say the least, it will be interesting trying to navigate the waters of noncompliance if the state decides to go against the federal recommendation for a shorter red snapper season.
If you’re following the story, and would like to know more about the meeting, you can listen in to the council today online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2624735815765929216 . Of course, we will keep you updated on the decision and talk about what that means for red snapper season here in Destin once the decision has been announced. So, stay tuned!