The Wild Side for Feb. 10, 2013

What happened on our most recent Thursday certainly gives outdoors writers months of topics. The following occurred during that day’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting:

Added to that is pushing state waters out to three marine leagues (10.357 miles) for fisheries-related matters, a move that opens more than seven miles of the Gulf of Mexico to recreational anglers.

Whew!

Because it’s such a bold move, and because of its immediate effect on state, regional and national level, the red snapper issue takes centerstage today.

In short, the new state recreational red snapper season will open the March 23-24 weekend, run Fridays-through-Sundays through the Sept. 27-29 weekend.

It will have two planned four-day seasons on the Memorial Day (May 24-27) and Labor Day (Aug. 30-Sept. 2) weekends with fishermen having three-fish-per-day limit.

That flies in the face of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s proposed June 1-27, two-red snapper-per day season.

It brought a stream of comments from proponents, who said the bullheaded stance taken by the Gulf Council left Louisiana no choice but to join Texas as a noncompliant state when it comes to the recreational red snapper take.

By now, it’s no big secret about the abundance of red snapper off our coast. In fact, the Gulf Council’s data shows the western Gulf of Mexico is as much as eight times more productive than the Gulf’s eastern waters.

With Louisiana joining Texas, there’s the real possibility that Florida’s commission will vote to become noncompliant, too.

During a regional management public hearing in Orange Beach, Ala., last month, Bob Shipp, one of Alabama’s Gulf Council reps and the head of the Marine Sciences Department at the University of South Alabama, was quoted in the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register telling a group of about 100 anglers, “Everybody’s frustrated. Council members are frustrated. State managers are frustrated. We may be close to a tipping point. I think if Florida goes noncompliant, the whole Gulf will close because the entire year’s allowable catch will come from their state waters. Then I think we’d have to start from scratch and possibly revisit the whole system.”

And Louisiana started it.