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As we’ve blogged about on numerous occasions, the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper management has long been a contentious (the understatement of the decade) issue for recreational anglers lamenting severe restrictions based on faulty data. A prized food fish of great sporting value, red snapper is one of the main offshore species that drives fishing-related expenditures, which significantly contribute to coastal economies throughout the Gulf.

Short seasons in federal waters – this year’s set at 12 days for Texas, nine for Louisiana, 28 for Mississippi and Alabama, and 21 for Florida – not only limit recreational enjoyment of the resource, but also the economic impact on bait/tackle shops, charter services, marinas and the hospitality industry. War cries and battle whoops have been heard from all sides. Now, it’s the governors’ turn.

Rick Perry (Texas), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Phil Bryant (Mississippi) and Rick Scott (Florida) are asking Congress to transfer the Gulf red snapper management to a partnership of Gulf States representatives. Since 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service has tightly regulated Gulf red snapper – a fishery the agency considers overfished. Pointing to flawed data collection practices, juxtaposed with anecdotal evidence of a recovering fishery, the recreational sector has in recent years sought a loosening of federal regulations. NMFS’s unwillingness to budge prompted the gubernatorial consortium.

In a jointly signed letter to U.S. House and Senate leadership, the governors stated: “With a stock that is recovering steadily, our recreational anglers are being allowed to fish less and less, and there is no hint of willingness from NOAA Fisheries to deviate from this present, unsatisfactory course. As governors of Gulf States, we believe this confusing management is just the latest evidence of a federal management system that is irretrievably broken. We seek to establish a better fishery management approach for Gulf red snapper.”

As the letter notes, state-based fishery management, such as the East Coast’s highly successful Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, has proven far more effective than federal efforts. Red drum, speckled trout and snook offer more examples of successful state-run management efforts.

Stay tuned. This war is sure to continue.