Florida Non-Compliance with Federal Red Snapper Regulations

Do you support the FWC going non-compliant with red snapper regs? As many of you may know we are looking at an even shorter red snapper season for 2013. If Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi all stay compliant with the federal season we will get approximately 27 days, Texas has been non-compliant for several years now. The state of LA has already made it clear that they are not going to be compliant and are working through a few steps before their 7 month season will be official, so that would cut the 27 days down dramatically because of the way the total allowable catch (TAC) works. Here’s a little background on how red snapper fishing is managed in the Gulf of Mexico. Each state has a section of water that is referred to as “state waters” which is the water within so many miles of that particular states coast. The state of Florida has 9 miles, Alabama 3, Mississippi 3, Louisiana 3 going to 10.3, and Texas 9. The fishery regulations in state waters are managed by that states Organization, for the state of Florida it’s the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The federal waters are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and in our current situation by one man Dr. Roy Crabtree. Another group involved is the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The Gulf Council is made up of people from all five states that make recommendations of the NMFS. Although it doesn’t seem like their opinion has mattered very much over the years when it comes to red snapper management. The NMFS follows the rules of the Magnuson Stevens Act, but without going into pages of detail they are using bad science. There numbers are wrong and they know it, but Dr. Crabtree uses the excuse he has no option but to follow the law using the science and numbers he’s provided. There are several reasons why the State of Florida has stayed compliant in the past. One of those reasons is funding from the federal government could be reduced or cut because Florida isn’t playing by the rules, but if Louisiana and Texas can handle it why can’t Florida. The biggest reason they have stayed compliant is likely because of the opposition of the charter boat sector and captains from Destin to Port St. Joe show up for meetings. Under the current rules if a charter boat holds a federal reef fish permit they are not allowed to fish in state waters for species that are closed in federal waters. That being said if red snapper is open in state waters and not federal waters boats that hold and wish to continue to hold their federal permit would not be allowed to fish for red snapper in state waters. This is another example of the government trying to force the states to stay compliant because they know charter boat operators will oppose non-compliance. Right now we have a bigger opportunity than ever before to make substantial changes to the way red snapper are managed, but the only possible way for this to happen is to get the FWC to go non-compliant with the federal season. I have been going to fishery meetings for over 10 years and I strongly feel this is the best chance we have ever had! Louisiana has opened the door for us and we must get the FWC to take the same route. What you must know is that Florida being non-compliant will most likely mean 0 days of federal waters red snapper season for recreational anglers and put charter boat operators in a horrible situation, but this will tear down the house of cards and force the NMFS to rethink their way of regulating. It has even been rumored that Dr. Crabtree would punish the states and place closures on other species in federal waters. Dr. Bob Shipp who sets on the Gulf Council is one of the most accredited and respected fishery scientists along the northern Gulf is in support of the states going non-compliant and breaking the system. Locally we have the support of Robert Turpin and in turn our local government to make a recommendation to the FWC Commissioners to go non-compliant. Our boat “Hot Spots” holds a federal reef permit and this will have an effect on us as with any other charter, but do the few days of red snapper fishing we’re going to get June really help? The answer is NO, that is everyone’s busiest time of the year and people will want to go fishing during that time whether red snapper is open or not. Now on the other hand a red snapper season in the spring or fall sure would be good for business. In order for the FWC to go non-compliant it will need to be an overwhelming amount of one sided support. I feel if it’s 50/50 that they will stay compliant with the federal regulations. Feel free to contact me if you would like to further discuss… Captain Matt McLeod (850) 418-5333

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