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Coastal Alabama Rep. slams ‘junk science’ behind shortest red snapper season ever

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 shares the frustration of most in his district when it comes to the federal government’s overregulation of red snapper fishing. According to him, Coastal Alabamians are infuriated over the announcement that the much-anticipated red snapper season will only last a pitifully short three days. He believes they have a right to be mad.

In a recent interview with Alabama Public Radio, Byrne said that the science used to determine the length of red snapper season is notoriously unreliable.

“[My constituents] have every reason to be outraged, because they have a right to fish in the waters of the United States, and they’re being deprived of that right by junk science. Put junk science in, you’re going to get a bad result out, and that’s exactly what we’ve got here,” Rep. Byrne said.

Every year, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announces how long the fishing season will last based on the size and stock of red snapper fish. Byrne argues that NMFS’s data is flawed because the service does not measure fish populations in coastal reefs, and red snapper is a reef fish.

“If you dramatically understate the size of the stock and dramatically overstate the number of fish that are being caught, you’re going to dramatically and unnecessarily limit the season to a very short period of time. And that’s what’s happened this year,” Byrne explained.

The Mobile-area Congressman says that he has fought year-round for new laws that would establish a healthier fishing season. Additionally, he’s currently appealing to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the NOAA, to reevaluate this year’s season.

Local fishermen, tackle shops, boat charter companies, and others have long warned that the increasingly tight red snapper season is taking an economic toll on the area. This year, many will gather in Alabama’s coastal marina’s following the season for a protest against the harmful federal regulation.

The red snapper fishing season will begin June 1 and end on June 3.