After years of fighting frustrating federal red snapper regulations, the National Marine Fisheries Service has granted the State of Alabama’s request to manage its red snapper season for 2018 and 2019.
Following a 30-day comment period, the Department of Commerce formally approved of Alabama’s request for an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP), allowing the state to manage its own fishing season.
Following the approval, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that she set the recreational red snapper season to 47 days in both 2018 and 2019.
“I am very pleased that the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, has granted Alabama an Exempted Fishing Permit for the next two red snapper seasons,” Ivey commented. “Following the directives from President Trump to cut down on federal regulations, this decision empowers Alabama to manage our resources instead of bureaucrats in Washington. Due to this exemption, I have instructed the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to set the 2018 season to 47 days. This season will allow recreational anglers five more days to fish for red snapper compared to last year. I am proud we have been able to expand the red snapper season, which is a critical part of Alabama’s recreation and tourism industry.”
The EFPs were made possible through language authored by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby in the FY2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill that directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service to develop the fishery management pilot program allowing states to direct reef fish management activities.
“This announcement is excellent news for the recreational fisherman in Alabama. After authoring the provision allowing NOAA to approve the pilot programs, our Gulf states will take the lead in managing recreational fishing of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Shelby. “I am confident that Alabama’s state-led pilot program will provide our recreational fisherman with much-needed, long-overdue relief and result in more days on the water,” said Senator Shelby.
The 2018 Red Snapper season in Alabama will run from June 1 through September 3, with Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays open to fishing. The entire week of the Fourth of July (June 30 through July 8) will also be open for red snapper fishing. Red snapper landings will also be allowed July 2-5 and Labor Day. The bag limit will remain two per person with a 16-inch minimum length.
Alabama 1st District U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne also praised the announcement.
“A 47 day Red Snapper season is a huge development for our local fishermen and Alabama’s coastal communities,” said Bryne. “This is how government should work: take power from Washington and return it to the people who best understand the issue. Under this proposal, our fishermen will have adequate time to enjoy a Gulf Coast tradition while our coastal communities will benefit from increased revenue. It is a win-win situation for coastal Alabama.
“The red snapper fishery means so much to the coastal culture and economy of Alabama. I appreciate the work of Senator Shelby and Congressman Byrne on this vital issue,” added Ivey. The entire state of Alabama is also indebted to Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship, as this exemption would not have happened without his leadership and his tireless advocacy for Alabama. I am proud of the work Commissioner Blankenship is doing, and I am honored to have him as a part of my cabinet.”
Under the pilot program, private recreational anglers will each be responsible for monitoring landings so they do not exceed their portion.
Alabama will use Snapper Check to monitor its landings and determine if:
- the season will close as anticipated;
- the season will close earlier than anticipated due to daily landings exceeding forecasted totals; or
- the original season length should be increased if daily landings do not meet anticipated levels (i.e. due to smaller fish size or inclement weather).
“The red snapper management granted by the EFP will allow Alabama to use the information from the Alabama Snapper Check Program, as well as the terabytes of fisheries data we have collected on the red snapper population in the Alabama Artificial Reef Zones, to show we can sustainably manage this fishery,” explained Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The federal charter season for red snapper is not included in Alabama’s new permit and is expected to be announced by NOAA Fisheries sometime in April 2018. The federal charter season for red snapper is expected to be longer than the federal charter season in 2017.