By JIM FOSTER
Special to the Parade
Looking into current events, the first part of this issue was reported in the April 4 issue of the South Padre Parade. Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and its commissions joined together to file a lawsuit in United States District Court in Brownsville.
The lawsuit will challenge an emergency regulation of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) allowing the NMFS regional administrator to significantly reduce the recreational red snapper season in federal waters off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
The (GMFMC) voted on Feb. 8 to implement an emergency rule that would shorten the recreational red snapper fishing season in federal waters off the Texas coast to as few as 11 days from the planned 27-day season. In contrast, the department allows snapper fishing in state waters 365 days a year.
“While the proposed shortened season would have no apparent conservation benefit, it would definitely have an economic impact,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Executive Director Carter Smith. “We estimate that a 27-day season would generate at least $28 million from recreational fishermen, while an 11-day season would cut that figure by at least $17 million in lost retail sales.”
Just weeks later, on April 18, the Gulf council voted 8 to 7 to overturn the emergency rule, in effect reversing the Feb. 8 vote. Texas and Louisiana representatives said the lawsuit was an added measure of enforceability should NMFS not act on the latest council motion prior to the start of red snapper season June 1. The federal court has been asked to expedite its consideration of the case so that a decision is reached before June 1.
As published in the federal register on March 25, the emergency rule would empower the NMFS southeast regional administrator to reduce the red snapper season in federal waters off Texas and Louisiana. In Texas, federal waters begin nine nautical miles from the state’s coast and extend 200 nautical miles. The rule affects Florida as well, since all three states have refused to shorten snapper seasons in state waters to mirror seasons set by NMFS for federal waters.
Red Snapper fishing along this part of the Texas coast is an important fishery with many depending on the income from having the ability to take their charter clients out in the Gulf to fish and bring their catches home. It has been proven that the NMFS basses it decisions on computer models and dockside surveys not even close to sound science.
TPW has received over 2,400 online public comments and more than 230 emails about the emergency rule that could shorten the snapper season, with 97 percent of those commenting opposed to the rule.
Editor’s Note: To see more of Jim’s writing and photography go to: http://fosteroutdoors.blogspot.com/. If you have comments or news for Jim Foster, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.