In December 2015, the federal government passed its annual omnibus spending bill, which included a provision to extend Alabama’s state waters from three nautical miles to nine nautical miles for 2016. The move aligned the state waters of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana with the state waters for Florida and Texas.
On Tuesday, Alabama 1st District U.S. Congressman Bradley Byrne announced he recently sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging the Committee to once again include a provision in the government funding bill to expand state waters in the Gulf of Mexico to nine miles for Red Snapper fishing. The language in the previous budget made the nine-mile extension valid through Fiscal year 2016, which ended September 30, 2016, requiring an extension to be valid in the 2017 fishing season.
“As we prepare for the upcoming Red Snapper season, it is critically important that state waters remain out to nine miles,” explained Byrne. “Changing this provision just weeks before the season starts would create unnecessary uncertainty and confusion for our local fishermen.”
Congressman Byrne continues to advocate for a long-term solution that gives more control over Red Snapper to the individual Gulf states instead of to the federal government. By giving states control over the data collection and stock assessments, Byrne believes we can get back to a full season again.
He continued, “This solution alone is not enough to fix the larger Red Snapper issue, but continuing to have state waters out to nine miles is an important step in the right direction. I will continue working with my Gulf Coast colleagues to advance commonsense legislation that fixes this issue once and for all.”
The full text of Byrne’s letter to the Appropriations Committee can be found below.
Dear Chairman Culberson:
As you and the Committee draft a funding bill for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017, I urge you to include language from previous appropriations bills that extends the boundaries of state waters in the Gulf of Mexico to nine nautical miles for Red Snapper fishing.
There continues to be serious concerns about the ability of the federal government to adequately manage the Red Snapper fishery in the Gulf. Efforts remain under way to find a long-term legislative solution to improve the way we gather data and information on the Red Snapper population and landings. These efforts also include a permanent extension of state waters out to nine nautical miles for Red Snapper fishing, which would bring parity to all the Gulf states.
While these efforts continue, it is vitally important the Committee once again include a provision allowing for state waters to be extended. Without the inclusion of this provision, there would be great uncertainty among fishermen and access to the abundant Red Snapper fishery would be further reduced.
Red Snapper fishing is about more than just the fishermen. The issue is of critical importance for the economies of coastal communities all along the Gulf Coast, including communities in my district. Ultimately, I urge the Committee to once again include this provision in any Appropriations bill as we continue working toward a permanent, long-term solution.
I appreciate your attention to this critical issue.