The Wild Side: La. and Texas win snapper season suit

By Joe Macaluso

This red snapper issue has reached the status of something my Missouri-born mom would call “a mess,” a situation far worse than a predicament, something approaching a disaster.

The latest twist in this battle between Louisiana and federal fisheries managers came late Friday.

Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ secretary Robert Barham confirmed long after dark Friday that a federal court ruling overturned what Louisiana and Texas fisheries departments believed were punitive actions taken by Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council director Roy Crabtree and the National Marine Fisheries Service to restrict the two states recreational red snapper season.

“This is a victory for the little guys,” Barham said.

Louisiana and Texas filed suit in federal court in early May to seek relief from respective 9-day and 14-day recreational seasons Crabtree handed to those states’ in late March.

Crabtree’s decision came after NMFS and the GMFMC apparently settled in on a 27-day 2013 recreational red snapper season with a two-fish-per-day limit beginning June 1.

Texas long-standing policy has been to keep its nine-miles of state boundary waters open year round with a four-fish-per-day creel.

In February, Louisiana re-affirmed a move to push its state boundary waters out to three marine leagues (10.357 miles), to open the recreational red snapper season to a weekends-only season from late March through September and allow a three-fish-per-day limit.

“We believed the action by federal managers was not based on science, that our red snapper stocks in the western Gulf were in good shape and warranted a different option in how to manage those snapper stocks,” Barham said when the state filed in federal court.

Acting on more current data, the GMFMC and NMFS announced a revised recreational red snapepr season last week. While the two-fish-per-day creel continues, the new data allowed for an increased overall red snapper quota, opened a 24-day season off the Louisiana coast, expanded seasons off the Texas and Florida coasts, and allowed for a 34-day season off the Mississippi and Alabama coasts.

Barham said the federal ruling nullified the original federal plan and said he believes Friday’s ruling could add more days to Louisiana’s season, but said state fishermen will have to wait until later this week to find out the full effect of the court ruling.

“No matter what happens,” Barham said, “this is a great day.”

Swollfest week

For years, one or another saltwater fishing rodeo was branded by the locale that produced most of its anglers, which is why this week’s Swollfest is different.

It draws fishermen from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas and has spread into Acadiana. It supports two major charities and can lay claim as Grand Isle’s major June rodeo.