The Wild Side: Let's hope feds heed fish ruling

It’s not likely many Louisiana folks know Andrew Hanen. He doesn’t live here, doesn’t work here, but what he did for Louisiana 10 days ago should make him a household name for thousands of Louisiana’s recreational offshore fishermen.

Hanen is a judge in a federal district court in Texas.

In late April, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and Texas’ Parks and Wildlife filed suit in Hanen’s court to seek relief from what these state agencies considered an unfair reduction in the federal seasons allowed for recreational anglers fishing for red snapper in federal waters off the Louisiana and Texas coasts.

It took Hanen and his staff just about six weeks to study the issue and for Hanen to make a ruling. In 25 pages issued late May 31, Hanen ruled for Louisiana and Texas.

In its basic form, Hanen declared null and void the National Marine Fisheries Service actions that had restricted Louisiana’s season to nine days and Texas’ to 14 days when the other three Gulf states received many more for their fishermen to take the two-red snapper-per-day limit imposed by federal managers,

So, last week, NMFS and the GMFMC came back with a 28-day season for all five Gulf states.

It worthy to note two paragraphs from Hanen’s ruling: “The emergency rule does not change the total catch allowed. It does not enhance the conservation of red snapper in any way. All it does is redistribute the right to fish from Texas, Louisiana and Florida fishermen to the anglers of Mississippi and Alabama.”

The second paragraph: “The only rationale, regardless as how (it) characterizes the underlying motive, behind the Emergency Rule is that NMFS is going to penalize the anglers living in the states that enact fishing seasons that do not match the federal season and reward those that do. The NMFS should not be in the business of penalizing states.”

The impetus to the federal managers’ harsh penalty was Louisiana’s insistence to have a recreational red snapper season in its state waters, and that Louisiana’s state waters for fisheries purposes extends to 10.357 miles, not the 3 miles the federal government chooses for Louisiana’s state boundary waters. Texas has never adopted federal seasons in its state waters that extend nine miles into the Gulf from the Texas shoreline.

It was only natural that the men behind the move to quash the federal managers’ disturbingly harsh penalties should celebrate this rare victory over federal rulings.

LDWF secretary Robert Barham smiled in victory: “It is my sincere hope, that as we move forward, we can work with officials at NMFS and NOAA to make joint decisions on what is best for the waters we know and monitor so closely.”

After the federal season runs out June 28, Louisiana’s weekend-only season will resume June 29, but we should push for is that federal managers understand that this ruling is a signal for sorely needed changes.