1 month ago

Amendment 50 gives Gulf states stable snapper season

After a three-year struggle, saltwater anglers are on the cusp of a stable red snapper season with the approval of Amendment 50 by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

Amendment 50, which goes into effect in 2020 with the approval of the secretary of Commerce, gives the five Gulf states control over each state’s snapper season, and it allows leeway in size and bag limits within certain federal guidelines.

“All of the Gulf states are excited to finally have this solidified and move forward with the management plans for the individual states,” said Scott Bannon, Alabama’s Marine Resources director. “It’s a win for the red snapper stock and a win for the states.”

Bannon said state control of the snapper fishery was brought before the Council in 2016 to manage the recreational sector, which would have included the private recreational sector and the federal for-hire (charter) sector.

The 2016 and 2017 snapper seasons were painfully short under federal control. As a way to alleviate the impact on anglers and the Gulf Coast economies, the Gulf states were issued an exempted fishing permit (EFP) for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and states were able to set their seasons under a total allowable catch for each state.

Alabama originally set its 2018 season at 47 days, but near-perfect weather and an increased enthusiasm for catching the state’s signature saltwater species forced Marine Resources to reduce the season to 28 days, which ended in an almost perfect catch-to-allocation result.

The way Alabama was able to ensure there was no significant overrun on the quota was through the Red Snapper Reporting System, more commonly known as Snapper Check. The mandatory reporting system allowed Marine Resources to monitor the catch and close the season in response to the larger-than-expected harvest numbers.

The success of the Snapper Check monitoring paved the way for the Council to approve Amendment 50.

“I think the fishery benefits from Amendment 50 because we have the ability, as individual states, of not exceeding our allocation of the quota,” Bannon said. “If you look at it from a stock perspective for the Gulf of Mexico and you were managing it as a whole and you had a perfect season, like last year, you had no way to put the season in check. Alabama alone would have consumed nearly half of the entire Gulf allocation if we had fished the whole 47 days. We would have fished it really, really hard, and the amount of fish we would have caught would have been tremendous. As it was, we closed it when we met the number of pounds and showed that we were responsible. I think this is much better for the anglers and the snapper stock. I think the EFP showed the states could come to some decisions about allocations, and that the states could manage seasons within pretty close tolerances.”

Bannon said the Gulf Council faced two challenges with state management of red snapper. First, where do the federal for-hire boats fit into the program? The Council decided to not include the federal for-hire in Amendment 50 and consider other options in the future if conditions change for the federal for-hire boats. Second, what allocations could the five Gulf states live with?

“These allocations were based on different factors like biomass and historical landings,” Bannon said. “So, the state directors used the EFP allocations as a starting point for Amendment 50.

“The EFP only allowed us to set the season within our allocation. Under Amendment 50, we received an increase in allocation from 25% to 26.298%, and that increase will be permanent. We also have in Amendment 50 the ability to set size and bag limits within certain parameters. Those are management tools to maximize the benefit for Alabama.”

When the initial EFP allocations were proposed, the totals did not equal 100% of the total allowable catch. Bannon said Florida was given the extra 3.78% because they were the final state to apply.

“They amended their EFP to get that extra allocation,” Bannon said. “We felt like that extra allocation should be negotiated. In the end, Alabama and Florida split that 3.78% under Amendment 50 because we’re the two largest consumers of red snapper. The other states were comfortable with that. It seems to be fair and equitable.”

Under the new amendment, each state creates their own plan. Alabama’s plan includes a 10% buffer as opposed to the 20% buffer under the federal system. The federal for-hire sector has not exceeded its quota for several years, and its buffer was reduced to 9%.

Alabama’s allocation of red snapper for the 2019 private recreational season under the EFP is 1,079,765 pounds. Alabama’s allocation for the 2020 season increases to 1,122,661 pounds if the private recreational sector doesn’t exceed its quota this year.

Bannon said most red snapper anglers are happy with the upcoming season, and he anticipates there could be some season adjustments when Amendment 50 goes into effect.

“Most of the responses I’ve received for the 2019 season is they were happy to get the June and July seasons and that the season was spread out enough that if the weather was bad they could go another weekend,” he said. “We know we still have concerns from the public that they would like more fishing time during the week. As we move forward in state management, that is always a possibility because we now have the flexibility to set the seasons.”

The 2019 season length is tentatively set for 27 days, starting June 1 with three-day weekends (Friday-Sunday) except opening weekend (two days) and July 4 week, which will be four days (Thursday-Sunday). The size limit and bag limit remain the same at two fish per person with a minimum size of 16 inches total length.

Bannon is planning to ask snapper anglers for assistance to keep Alabama’s unparalleled artificial reef program at the top. The loss of funding for research in those reef zones will prompt him to ask the Conservation Advisory Board to implement a reef fish endorsement beginning in 2020.

“The reef fish endorsement is set up to help fund some of the research conducted in the reef zones, because we’re losing some of the funding used for that research,” he said. “The research needs to continue, and we also need funds to support programs like Snapper Check, which we hope to expand into a better program. It’s designed as a user-based system that applies to the people who are participating in that fishery, including private recreational, charter for-hire and commercial fishermen. Another aspect of it is it defines the user group. It gives us a better idea, especially among private anglers, of how many people are fishing for reef fish off Alabama. That way we can have better directed surveys, which are targeted at people who participate in the fishery instead of just people who have saltwater fishing licenses.”

The endorsement fees would be $10 for private recreational anglers and $250 for commercial fishermen. The charter for-hire fees would depend on the size of the boat and number of passengers the vessel can carry.

As for Amendment 50, Bannon said Alabama has already shown state management will work. The public is supportive, and he thinks that Secretary Wilbur Ross will quickly approve.

“As I said on the radio the other day, Alabama has 3% of the Gulf coastline and will receive 26.298% of the total allowable catch for the 2020 season and beyond,” Bannon said. “I think Amendment 50 is a success for the fishery, and I think it’s a success for the states because the states can now manage the seasons, size limits and bag limits that best suit their anglers.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

1 min ago

Alabama House passes campus free speech bill on party line vote

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday passed as substituted State Rep. Matt Fridy’s (R-Montevallo) HB 498, a bill intended to safeguard freedom of speech on college campuses in the Yellowhammer State.

The bill would require Alabama’s public colleges and universities to protect and adopt policies that uphold the First Amendment free speech rights for students and faculty. HB 498 would also provide a cause of legal action for violations by public higher education institutions under the legislation.

First, HB 498 would eliminate overly broad and ambiguous speech policies that infringe on expression protected by the U.S. and state constitutions, checked by constitutional limitations like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Second, the bill would eliminate so-called “free speech zones.” Finally, the proposal would empower the institutions to protect free expression by members of the campus community from unlawful violations by other members of the campus community.

In a House committee meeting on the bill, Fridy previously explained that this third tenet has to do with protecting students from “shout downs.” The bill sponsor said HB 498 is modeled after legislation already adopted by approximately 15 other states, as an “assault” on free speech and expression occurs on college campuses from coast-to-coast.

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Fridy’s legislation states, “Alabama’s public institutions of higher education have historically embraced a commitment to freedom of speech and expression.”

However, he said that there are policies in place on campuses across the state that violate the First Amendment.

In fact, it was reported in recent months that Alabama A&M University and the University of North Alabama were named to the list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

In the committee meeting previously, opponents said that the constitutional guarantee to free speech already protects the rights that the bill intends to defend, making it an ultimately redundant government-overreach.

Yet, conservatives in Alabama and across the country have lauded Fridy for bringing the bill.

Eagle Forum of Alabama has endorsed the legislation, saying Fridy is “one of the strongest voices in the Alabama legislature in support of individual liberty and our Constitutional principles of limited government.”

In the committee meeting, prominent National Review commentator and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center Stanley Kurtz spoke in ardent support of the bill, decrying the “shout down culture” growing on college campuses nationwide.

Kurtz mentioned CIA Director Gina Haspel being heckled at Auburn University in a recent appearance, where the protester was promptly removed.

At the committee meeting, a former Auburn undergrad opposed the bill, claiming institutions should have the right to disallow speech by those that “disrupt” “campus culture.”

This former student also exposed a big reason Fridy feels he needed to bring the bill. The former student preached diversity and inclusion while advocating for excluding speech when there is “a difference of opinion.”

The ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Randall Marshall also spoke in opposition to HB 498, with the caveat that the bill contains some good provisions. However, Marshall concluded, in his view, that allowing colleges to enact anti-discrimination policies outweigh individuals’ right to free speech and expression.

One vocal supporter of the bill in committee was State Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), a career journalist from northwest Alabama. He lamented, “Our society has gone soft.”

Estes said people do not have the right not to be offended, which they seem to think overrides constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

In eye-opening fashion, members of the Alabama House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday proved Estes’ comments right as they spoke on the floor against HB 498. You can follow a live-tweet thread of the debate here.

While Republicans like State Reps. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), Kerry Rich (R-Boaz) and Proncey Robertson (R-Mt. Hope) came up to voice their support of Fridy and the bill in spots, the debate was plagued by dizzying arguments against the First Amendment by House Democrats.

For example, even after Fridy walked him through the legal difference between hate speech and dangerous speech, State Rep. Thomas “Action” Jackson (D-Thomasville) said public higher education institutions should have the right to disallow and/or censor hate speech.

Fridy made the follow-up point that the best way to counter hate speech “is more speech” by those with differing viewpoints.

Jackson later claimed that forcing public higher education institutions to uphold students’ free speech rights is violating the “freedom” of those institutions.

“The freedom to reject,” Jackson said, seemingly making up a new clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“The government doesn’t have a freedom to reject,” Fridy advised.

Jackson responded, “[They’re] not the government.”

Friday explained that public colleges and universities are indeed government entities.

Jackson then said the leadership of these institutions should be able to “make that decision” whether they want to usurp the First Amendment or not.

“They are government,” Fridy reiterated.

“Yeah, but they’re a governing body,” Jackson remarked.

Jackson’s speech of opposition stirred up longtime State Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham), who said, “I think all people that are invited on our colleges’ campuses don’t need to be there.”

Moore argued against the notion that countering hate speech with other speech is the solution. Instead, her solution would be censorship of speech, with institutions picking and choosing what they feel is acceptable or politically correct.

She opined, “I don’t think that’s the truth,” regarding the notion of all opinions and beliefs being protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

Moore then asserted that government should “be able to say no” on allowing what they deem as hate speech. She said the same power should apply to college/university administrators.

“I think that we don’t need to force them to allow everybody to come on [campus who is invited]. If students say they don’t think a certain person or group should be there, I think that we ought to at least listen to the students’ voices,” Moore stated. “I don’t think we need it all (all viewpoints).”

She added there are some perspectives “that we just don’t need to hear.”

“We need to get away from this, where you’re forcing people to be able to listen to information that they don’t want to hear,” Moore said. “Especially on our college campuses, that’s a place of learning. And if there’s a disagreement of views, than that occurs in the classroom [only].”

She added that institutions should be able to censor or disallow certain speech that might sow “confusion.”

On HB 498, Moore emphasized, “I don’t think a bill to do this is appropriate at this time or at any time.”

Perhaps Moore’s most startling line of the day was, “Freedom of speech ain’t freedom.”

She continued, “And we know as a cause, even when we think we have freedom of speech, somebody paid some kind of price for those of us who are citizens of this country and other countries practicing democracy. Somebody shed some blood, somebody even gave their complete life. So, freedom of speech ain’t really freedom. Because somebody paid a price for us to have it. So, when we come back and take the option away for a [public institution’s] president or board of trustees to say it would not be in the best interest of our university to allow certain speakers to come on [campus]… I think that what we need to do is not be disruptive… I don’t think we need to take the freedom to say ‘no’ away.”

Moore’s performance was followed by other dramatic appearances by Democrats opposing the bill, including State Reps. Juandalyyn Givan and John Rogers of Birmingham.

Rogers and other Democrats like State Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile) said that public colleges and universities were adamantly opposing the bill, even though Fridy had worked with two-year and four-year institutions on some changes to the bill. Bracy is a trustee at Alabama State University.

Asked about HB 498 by Yellowhammer News, a spokesman for Auburn University said, “We typically don’t comment on pending legislation, but Auburn leaders have worked with the bill’s sponsors to ensure they know that Auburn stands for free speech and robust exploration of ideas. We likewise stand for respect, equality and other principles fundamental to American society. While people have a right to voice their opinions, we also have a responsibility to speak up when others espouse racism, bigotry, hatred or other offensive views.”

A few off-the-wall ideas were proposed by Democrats during debate, too. Bracy came out in support of “safety zones” instead of “free speech zones” and Moore said controversial speeches should only be allowed over an institution’s closed-circuit TV system instead of in-person.

The final roll call vote on HB 498 was almost entirely by party line and came out 62-27.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it faces a very short window of time before the legislative session ends next week.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

23 mins ago

7 Things: Trump demands Democrats stop investigations, Pelosi can’t hold off the far-left, more jobs for Alabama and more …

7. Creepy porn inmate

  • Michael Avenatti, who became famous for supporting porn star Stormy Daniels, is now looking at the potential of going to jail for 404 years for ripping her off.
  • The federal prosecutors in New York allege that Avenatti stole around $300,000 from Daniels’ book deal and used that money for personal and business expenses. He already faces charges for trying to defraud Nike and not paying his taxes.

6. Alabama Democrats attack the Constitution

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  • Democrats at the State House decided to take turns at the podium declaring their disdain for free speech, calling their colleagues white supremacists and declaring that unpopular speech should not be free.
  • Regardless of this embarrassing and anti-American display, HB 498 passed the House 62-27, and now could be taken up by the Senate. The Senate should take up the bill solely because of the comments of elected officials in the Alabama State House prove it is necessary.

5. The State Board of Education is about to get fired

  • The House Education Policy Committee gave a favorable report to the constitutional amendment introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston).
  • The amendment would replace the State Board of Education with the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, replace the state superintendent with a secretary of elementary and secondary education and it would mandate that Common Core be replaced.

4. Alabama is still open for business

  • Governor Kay Ivey has announced that the largest supplier for the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant is coming to Limestone County; the plant will bring 650 new jobs.
  • While Birmingham’s mayor continues to claim, without evidence, Alabama’s abortion ban is hurting the state, Ivey commented, “Alabama business is on a roll and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”

3. OK, now the lottery is dead

  • The lottery bill failed on a procedural vote on Tuesday in the House, where three Democrats voted for the bill. Issues of codifying illegal behavior, education funding and earmarks all played a role, but it is totally dead now.
  • At an Alabama House Democrat Caucus press conference, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said that the three Democrats who voted “yay” will be prepared to vote “nay” if the bill comes back this session because the Democrats don’t want this lottery bill for Alabama since it doesn’t deliver on their issues including college scholarships.

2. Pelosi caves to her extremist caucus

  • On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) claimed that President Donald Trump may have committed an impeachable offense by ignoring subpoenas from Congress, calling reference to Article 3 of Nixon’s impeachment.
  • Pelosi also accused the president and Republicans of not being committed to protecting the Constitution.

1. Trump rages against the impeachment machine

  • For now, it appears legislating is all but done as both sides prepare to fight about investigations, investigations into investigations and claims of cover-ups, but it seems unlikely that anything gets accomplished moving forward.
  • In a meeting that was to be about infrastructure, Trump demanded that Democrats put an end to their “phony investigations.” Only after that will he negotiate with them on issues and when they said “no,” he took to a podium in the Rose Garden and declared, “I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it … but you know what, you can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.”

3 hours ago

Mooney requests to ‘formally censure and condemn’ John Rogers over ‘vile remarks’

MONTGOMERY — A shouting match broke out on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday night after State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) surprised the chamber by introducing a request to “formally censure and condemn” State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) for his comments that went viral in recent weeks regarding abortion.

Mooney’s action came immediately after Rogers killed two non-controversial bills on a consent calendar and threatened to continue that trend until midnight. Rogers did this seemingly as a measure of spite, attempting to get revenge because a bill of his has not been moved by the House.

Mooney rose to the podium, saying he wanted to object to Rogers’ bill-killing rampage.

However, Mooney then really kicked things up a notch by introducing his formal complaint against Rogers.

That complaint as follows:

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Before Mooney could read much of the complaint, shouting ensued by members of the House Democratic Caucus.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) called the spectacle inappropriate, and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) quickly moved to adjourn as the chaos continued.

The House did immediately adjourn for the night, prematurely ending their legislative day without accomplishing any of its consent calendar, which had some 40 bills on the agenda.

The future fate of Mooney’s request was not immediately clear.

The complaint from Mooney states that Rogers’ “vile remarks” served to “denigrate, embarrass and demean the institution that is the Alabama House of Representatives.” Mooney said the comments brought “national shame and ridicule upon the House.”

This came the same day that Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) ducked a question again from a Republican tracker regarding Rogers.

Mooney is a Republican candidate for Jones’ seat in the 2020 race, along with Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville thus far.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Tommy Battle: ‘Way too early to tell’ if abortion ban is impacting Huntsville

The Human Life Protection Act, which was signed into law last week by Gov. Kay Ivey, has already allegedly threatened economic development in Alabama according to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

The law bans abortions in Alabama, and some have suggested it could have offer obstacles for economic development throughout the state.

During an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he wasn’t ready to say what, if any, impact the law had on his city.

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“From our side, it is way too early to tell,” Battle said.

Battle instead warned of the threat the pending trade dispute between China and the United States could have on the local economy.

Both China and the United States have levied tariffs on one another’s imports, which Battle said would be a topic on his upcoming visit to Japan set to take place next week.

“You know, we’ve got a couple of issues that are up there right now,” Battle continued. “The tariffs are an issue. Looking at the national security side of foreign automobiles coming in and facing a tariff situation is going to be something we’re going to have to have a conversation about while we’re over in Japan because, of course, Toyota and Mazda are going to be producing cars soon. And the tariffs hit them, and the national security side hits them both. I think this is a good time to probably go over and see our industries, and try to make sure we can help them in the ways they need to be helped.”

On Wednesday, nearly a week after Ivey had signed the bill, both Battle and Ivey participated in a groundbreaking ceremony to welcome Y-tec Keylex Toyotetsu Alabama (YKTA) to Alabama, which is a $220 million investment that will bring 650 jobs to Huntsville.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

4 hours ago

Alabama House passes legislation to combat human trafficking

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed two bills aimed at combatting human trafficking: HB 262 and HB 264.

The bills are co-sponsored by State Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) and State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur). Coleman the assistant minority leader, on the House floor stressed that combatting human trafficking is a nonpartisan issue. She praised Collins and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) for their efforts on the issue.

“Human trafficking is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation. There are more slaves today, an estimated 27 million, than at any point in our nation’s history,” Coleman explained in a statement. “This startling fact shows why the Alabama Legislature must act to combat human trafficking and educate the public about the harsh realities of this growing business.”

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Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, estimated at $150 billion annually. This “modern-day slavery,” as END IT Alabama monikers human trafficking, is happening here in the Yellowhammer State. This is evidenced by the recent trafficking busts at multiple massage parlors in Madison and Morgan Counties by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

“I used to purchase gift certificates for my own mother to get foot massages at the very same spas that were shut down,” Collins advised. “HB264 would have required those same owners to display a human trafficking poster with hotline information, which could have led to a quicker rescue. I think the impact of human trafficking is larger than we realize.”

HB 262 clarifies existing law to prohibit publishing photos of those charged with the act of prostitution while allowing for publishing photos of those charged with soliciting or procuring prostitution. This bill is aimed at deterring “John’s” from purchasing sex and supporting human trafficking while protecting potential victims of human trafficking from public identification.

HB 264 clarifies existing state regulations related to the posting of the Human Trafficking Hotline and awareness posters in public places and entertainment establishments by assigning a regulator and increasing fees for non-compliance.

The two bills now head to the Senate, where they face a time crunch to pass before the regular session ends next week.

HB 261, which would require all new commercial driver licensees to undergo industry-specific human trafficking training, was also slated to be passed by the House Wednesday night before the chamber abruptly adjourned over State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) intentionally killing non-controversial legislation on a consent calendar. HB 261 has the backing of the Alabama Trucking Association and Truckers Against Trafficking.

Coleman and Collins will also introduce a pair of resolutions aimed at combatting human trafficking. The first resolution encourages ALEA to continue developing curriculum to ensure that every officer in the state is trained regarding human trafficking.

The second resolution creates the Alabama Healthcare Human Trafficking Training Program Commission, which is tasked with developing a training module for all healthcare related employees to readily identify and provide trauma-centered care for human trafficking victims.

You can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 24/7 at 1 (888) 373-7888.

You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn