The Wild Side: New dates bring new questions

The risk of writing more about Louisiana’s battle with federal fishery managers is boring readers to the point where they see little value in reading more about it, but as long as we continue to have the kind of federal management of red snapper that risk is small.

Further evidence was supplied last week when the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration managers revealed an increase in the 2013 quota for Gulf red snapper to 8.46 million pounds, up from 8.08 million pounds in 2012.

We’re near five months into the year, five months when commercial fishermen have been able to make a big dent in their 51-percent allocation of that 8.46 million pounds, and the federal folks finally make up their minds about a number for the current year.

Even worse is that the feds came up with this number less than two weeks before opening the recreational red snapper season in federal waters, and decided, after months of hand wringing, that Louisiana fishermen will get 24 days for its federal-water season. That’s a far cry from the nine days Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council boss Roy Crabtree decided Louisiana would get after our state commission decided to ditch federal schemes to manage red snapper off our coast.

The May 23 announcement all the more gives recreational anglers and state fishery managers the ammo needed in the battle for state management of reef fish stocks off the coast of each of the five Gulf states.

Louisiana, Texas and Florida, the three states that decided to set seasons in their state waters are getting fewer days than the 27 outlined by the GMFMC earlier this year. Louisiana will get 24 days, Texas 17 and Florida 26. Mississippi and Alabama, which the feds determined to have “consistent regulations” (with federal regs) will get 34 days.

All that leaves questions that need answers:

What happened to a gulfwide recreational red snapper season?

If there is consistent objection from the federal managers about state/regional management, then why are there different dates for different states?

The answer to that question is more important considering that the GMFMC prefers to manage the Gulf’s red snapper stock as one, and not separate stocks in eastern and western sectors of the Gulf of Mexico.

Finally, how are federal managers going to distinguish red snapper caught off Louisiana’s coast by Mississippi and Alabama fishermen in the 10 extra days they have to fish from their ports for red snapper?

There’s no big secret that offshore anglers from those state venture into waters off the Louisiana coast to catch deep-water species. And, with our state claiming 10.357 miles off out coast and having weekend-only red snapper seasons, are our state enforcement agents going to issue citations for out-of-state anglers taking red snapper Mondays through Thursdays between June 25 and July 5?

Just asking.