The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted Feb. 8 to recommend an emergency rule that could shorten the recreational red snapper fishing season in federal waters off the Texas coast to as little as 11 days from the planned 27-day season.
The recommendation passed by a narrow majority, over strong opposition by representatives from Texas and Louisiana, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and a representative from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
As recommended, the rule would give the National Marine Fisheries Service southeast regional administrator authority to shorten the snapper fishing season in federal Exclusive Economic Zone waters off Texas. State waters extend from the coast out to nine nautical miles.
“We are simply outraged by this move to penalize Texas anglers, local economies and fisheries for simply exercising our regulatory authority in Texas waters,” said T. Dan Friedkin of Houston, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chairman, in a news release. “This is not a recipe for a successful collaborative approach to fisheries management. I do not intend to stand idly by while Texas anglers are penalized by such egregious federal overreach.”
TPWD leaders noted the unusual circumstances surrounding the emergency rule recommendation. This included how a vote for the rule failed 9 to 8 this morning, but backers of the rule persisted with a second vote after lunch, when the measure finally passed 10 to 7.
“This recommendation is clearly directed at Texas and it strikes me as more punitive and political, rather than biological, because state regulations in Texas waters have not mirrored those set by the Gulf Council in recent years,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director, in the release. “This is not a victory for red snapper, but rather a loss for Texas anglers and coastal communities.”