Texas anglers looking to fill their freezers with red snapper are urged to head to their local H-E-B or other local seafood-selling establishment.

At least that’s what NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council would urge you to do.

In the most stunning move it may ever make, the fisheries governing body enacted a three-day season for private anglers targeting red snapper in Gulf waters in 2017.

That means this year’s federal season in waters off the Texas coast will begin June 1, 2017, at 12:01 a.m. and end at the same time June 4, the shortest recreational snapper season in history. For comparison, the federally permitted for-hire component season will run 49 days in federal waters, also starting June 1.

NOAA Fisheries, citing an overage of more than 100,000 pounds of red snapper in last year’s recreational quota, pointed to numerous factors for its historic decision. Among those were noting more efficient recreational anglers and highlighting state frameworks, including those in Texas, that aren’t compliant with federal regulations.

“The overage of the total recreational quota must be paid back by the private angling component because that component exceeded its quota,” according to a news release.

The agency also said it expects roughly 80 percent of the 2017 quota to be caught during state seasons in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida waters.

It should be noted that the bag limit in federal waters remains two fish that are at least 16 inches long, while the daily framework in Texas state waters — where fishing is allowed year-round — is four fish which must be at least 15 inches. However, more than 95 percent of the red snapper landed in Texas come from federal waters, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department figures. Most of that catch – about 80 percent – comes from head boats which take out numerous paying clients offshore.

In Texas federal waters begin 9 nautical miles from the coast and extend 200 nautical miles.

Here are notes from the Gulf Council’s news release:

  • The red snapper total recreational quota is allocated 57.7% to the private angling component and 42.3% to the for-hire component.
  • In 2016, the total recreational quota was exceeded by 129,906 pounds. The private angling quota was also exceeded.
  • After adjustment for the 2016 overage, the 2017 annual catch target for the private angling component is 3,004,075 pounds whole weight. The 2017 annual catch target for the for-hire component is 2,278,000 pounds whole weight.
  • Catches in both state and federal waters are counted against the quota. The number of days for each component to harvest its annual catch target was calculated using 2016 catch rates and accounting for the expected red snapper harvest during state seasons outside the federal season. Private anglers are expected to harvest nearly 81% of the private angling quota during state seasons that range from 67 to 365 days.

By coincidence, the chairman of CCA Texas was testifying Tuesday before a Congressional hearing on federal management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mark Ray told the House Subcommittee on Interior, Energy and the Environment, chaired by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), that red snapper is a “man-made fishery management disaster,” according to a CCA report.

“By any measure, the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico should be held up as a shining example of proper management and good conservation. But as this hearing demonstrates, that is not the case. We aren’t here today to highlight a conservation success story. Unfortunately, we are here because red snapper is known throughout the nation as a man-made fishery management disaster,” Ray said, in the report. “After decades under intense federal management, this is the best that anglers can hope for — a three-day season in federal waters in 2017. I don’t think anyone would declare the current situation a success. All we ask is for is a system that allows all stakeholders the best opportunity to enjoy and use those resources. I am here today to ask this you to give us that chance.”

Click here for a historical perspective on red snapper fishing

Click here for a report on the red snapper “sea lords”

Here are the 2016 Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper landings, by mode and state, according to the Gulf Council.

Florida, Private Angling: 1,711,156 pounds; Federal For-Hire: 772,587 pounds

Alabama, Private Angling: 2,018,210 pounds; Federal For-Hire: 834,343 pounds

Mississippi, Private Angling: 351,753 pounds; Federal For-Hire: 147,319 pounds

Louisiana, Private Angling: 956,403 pounds; Federal For-Hire: 21,188 pounds

Texas, Private Angling: 150,379 pounds; Federal For-Hire: 358,567 pounds

If you’re up for some lengthy reading, please read how NOAA Fisheries makes its red snapper decisions.



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