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Alabama lawmaker pens letter to Trump administration on extending red snapper season

Fishermen on Alabama’s Gulf Coast will have more time to fish for red snapper this year and vastly expanded waters to do it in. (Robert DeWitt/Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne (R) joined four other members of Congress in writing a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross asking the administration to extend the length of the Red Snapper season in federal waters. Currently, the season for Red Snapper in those waterways is three days.

Byrne was joined by representatives Garrett Graves (R-La.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), and Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on this measure. All are members who represent states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. They cite inaccurate data used by the National Marine Fisheries Service to set the 2017 restrictions.

“A three day Red Snapper season is simply not acceptable, especially given how many Red Snapper there are in the Gulf right now,” Byrne said in a press release. “Anyone who knows anything about Gulf Coast fisheries would agree that the Red Snapper fishery is incredibly healthy. By bringing other Gulf Coast Congressmen together, I am hopeful we can get the Trump Administration and Secretary Ross to provide some relief for our recreational fishermen ahead of the 2017 federal season.”

Following is the letter the legislators sent to Secretary Ross:

Dear Secretary Ross,

We write today to express our disappointment in the recent announcement from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of a three day recreational Red Snapper season. It is unacceptable. We ask that you reevaluate this decision and extend the number of days for the 2017 season.

On March 21st, we wrote to you about the importance of access to adequate fishing resources in the Gulf of Mexico, and namely Red Snapper. You responded that the Red Snapper fishery is a high priority for you and your department, and therefore it is time for more than three days.

Our recreational fishermen are being penalized by NOAA for a statistical anomaly. Currently, NOAA’s data says that recreational fishermen exceeded last year’s quota by 129,906 pounds. However, 129,000 pounds represents less than .02 percent of the recreational quota. This decision has no bearing on the health of the stock, and there is no chance NOAA is representing the number with any degree of accuracy.

At the state level, we continue to see report numbers that do not match NMFS’s data, caused by the lack of real-time information. For example, in Alabama, preliminary estimates for 2016 show a total of approximately 821,000 pounds counted by Alabama’s Snapper Check Program. NOAA’s estimates for the same time show approximately 2 million pounds accounted for. Mississippi’s data shows the opposite problem. According to data from Mississippi’s Tails n’ Scales Program, almost 40,000 pounds were accounted for, yet NOAA’s data claims there were zero pounds taken. It is time for recreational anglers to stop being penalized for NOAA’s bad science and lack of coordination.

In short, there is serious doubt that federal data is accurately reflecting the number of Red Snapper in the Gulf. For that reason, we feel reevaluating your agency’s decision for the 2017 season is warranted, and we urge you to continue working with us to develop a long-term solution to address these issues impacting our recreational fishermen and coastal communities.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

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