Louisiana, Texas file suit on red snapper

Citing the loss of millions of dollars after cuts in their recreational red snapper seasons in federal waters, the chairmen of game and fish commissions in Louisiana and Texas teamed to file a lawsuit Tuesday challenging respective nine-day and 12-day seasons.

The lawsuit was filed jointly in the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Texas’ Parks and Wildlife Department. Earlier this month, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission authorized the LDWF and its secretary Robert Barham to “take such action as might be warranted by a recent decision to reduce Louisiana’s recreational red snapper season to nine days.”

According to the announcement by the LDWF and the TPWD, the suit challenges the emergency regulation issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, through the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the council’s director Roy Crabtree.

The issue came to a head earlier this year when the LWFC voted a three-day weekends season from late March through the end of September and a three-per-day red snapper limit for its recreational anglers. The LWFC also reaffirmed its move to establish state fisheries boundary waters out to three marine leagues, or 10.357 miles.

Louisiana’s new 88-day season was designed to foster the LDWF’s push toward regional management of reef fish species instead of federal manaement. Texas has a year-long recreational red snapper season in its nine-mile state boundary waters.

Earlier this year, the GMFMC announced a 27-day recreational red snapper season in federal waters, which runs from state boundary waters for the five Gulf states out to 200 miles. That shortened season was disputed by several Gulf states’ marine biologists who said red snappr stocks have rebounded sufficiently to allow for more recreational fishing days. The 2012 season was 47 days long.

The suit asks the federal court to expedite the case before June 1, the start of the federal recreational red snapper season.

The joint announcement stated that the “joint lawsuit alleges that there is no emergency to justify such a rule. The two states also allege the emergency rule violates the federal policy of cooperative federalism by improperly attempting to regulate the red snapper season in state waters.”

Both states claim NMFS and the GMFMC have ignored economic provisions in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which empowers the federal management councils across the country.

Both the LDWF and the TPWD claim shortened seasons (from 27 to nine and 12 days) will have a negative economic impact: Louisiana claims a loss as high as $8 million, while Texas claims a loss of as much as $12 million.

“The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, on behalf of recreational fishermen and those whose livelihood depends on reasonable access to red snapper stocks, has taken this action to send the message to NMFS that a nine-day season for Louisiana landings is totally unreasonable and unacceptable,” LWFC chairman Ronny Graham said in a prepared statement.

TPW Commisison chair T. Dan Friedkin said, “While we would prefer a cooperative regional management approach and are still hopeful that we can reach such a resolution, TPWD has a responsibility to take legal action to protect our state’s authority to manage the red snapper fishery within Texas waters. We have heard loudly and clearly from our anglers and other stakeholders that they expect nothing less from us.”