Graves on Omnibus Snapper Provisions: “A Step in the Right Direction.” Continues to Chum the Water for State Management in 2016
Washington DC – Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) announced today the inclusion of an important red snapper management provision in the Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that Congress will vote on later this week. The provision marks substantive progress on the Graves-led effort in the House to improve management and increase recreational access to the Gulf red snapper fishery.
“The federal government’s management of red snapper is a complete failure,” said Graves. “For too long, incomplete science has informed federal policies that have restricted access to the enormous recreational fishing community in South Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, eroding the region’s fishing heritage and hurting local economies.”
Graves led a House Natural Resources Committee hearing earlier this year to examine his bill, H.R. 3094 – the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act (GSRSMA), which would transfer management of the fishery from the federal government to the five Gulf States. He also drafted a House-passed amendment to the appropriations bill giving recreational fishers up to 70-days to fish for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico – up from 10-days. Graves’ advocacy for state management has bolstered a bipartisan effort to reform the federal management regime.
“NOAA’s stock assessments exclude red snapper that live on reefs and around energy infrastructure in the Gulf, which is known habitat that anyone who goes out for red snapper targets to get on the fish. The government’s flawed circular reasoning – excluding critical habitat, underestimating the population, limiting recreational access – is absurd,” Graves added.
Language in the omnibus addresses state jurisdiction, assessments and allowable catch. Specifically:
- Fishery Boundaries: Bill language extends Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi state seaward fishery boundaries from three miles out to nine miles for these states to regulate red snapper and other reef fish.
- Red Snapper Tagging Study: Provides up to $5 million for NOAA’s National Sea Grant College program to support external research and development through its network of academic institutions for a red snapper tagging study in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Red Snapper Stock Assessment: Provides $5 million for independent, stock assessments (outside of NOAA) for Gulf reef fish including red snapper. Directs NOAA to count fish on artificial reefs and offshore energy exploration infrastructure, incorporate those counts into future stock assessments and management decisions for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Red Snapper Allowable Catch: Urges NOAA to provide an increased allocation of Gulf red snapper to private recreational anglers.
- Red Snapper and the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP): Provides no funding for the full transition to the new MRIP implementation plan until NOAA fixes the stock assessment process as directed under the bill’s red snapper section.
“This language is a step in the right direction, but I remain committed to working with stakeholders toward a broader sustainable solution by transferring red snapper management authority to the five Gulf States in 2016,” concluded Graves. Graves worked with Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama and Senators Vitter and Cassidy on this issue.