In a move applauded by recreational anglers, Louisiana’s 6th District Representative Garret Graves (R-LA 6) and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced a bipartisan, cross-chamber bill to drastically change the management of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposed “Red Snapper Act” seeks to provide more state control over the management of recreational fishing for red snapper in hopes of increasing the available fishing days in federal waters. In recent years, recreational anglers have been faced with dwindling seasons, from 11 days in 2016, to just three in 2017. Currently, the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper fishery is managed, both commercially and recreationally on a Gulf-wide basis, by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (“Gulf Council”).
The new bill would amend the current law and give each of the Gulf States the exclusive authority to regulate recreational red snapper fishing in federal waters off of their own shores in the extended red snapper management zone, which will reach at least 25 miles out and to a depth of 25 fathoms (150 feet). The Gulf Council will retain the authority to set the total allowable catch for red snapper, but the individual states will gain the authority to establish seasons and otherwise regulate the fishery so long as such regulation is consistent with previously-established national standards and other criteria in the bill. The amendments would not impact the current regulation of the commercial and for-hire charter red snapper fishing industries.
In addition to shifting significant control to the states, the bill would also effectively establish a protected area for red snapper below 150 feet where, according to Congressman Graves’ office, the bulk of the red snapper species lives.
However, the bill has not been met with unanimous praise. The Ocean Conservancy argues that the Red Snapper Act ignores the problem of overfishing and “stacks the odds against recovery of the species.” The bill’s proponents argue instead that only 19 percent of the species occur in water less than 25 fathoms and that this bill would both improve the current mismanagement of the red snapper fishery and “provide stability to the private recreational red snapper fishery.”
To check the bill’s progress via Gov Track, click here.
 “Red snapper” refers to the species Lutjanus campechanus.
 S. 1686 – 115th Congress: A bill to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to provide for management …” www.GovTrack.us. August 5, 2017 https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s1686
 Federal waters for fisheries management purposes begin at nine nautical miles off of Texas and Florida and at three nautical miles for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. For all five Gulf states, federal waters extent to the 200-mile limit of the Gulf of Mexico.
 The Gulf Council was established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, 16 U.S. C. §§1801 et seq., commonly referred to as the Magnuson-Stevens Act.