The Wild Side.June 30, 2013

It’s become more and more apparent that Louisiana’s now 14-month-long stance on state management of red snapper, and the move to establish state recreational red snapper seasons and daily limits has advanced the discussion of the problems with federal management of this species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, the Natural Resources Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives met to discuss and take public comment on red snapper management issues.

Early in 2012, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted to establish a weekends-only, three-red snapper-per-day season in Louisiana waters. The vote to extend state waters from what was three miles into the Gulf to three marine leagues (10.357 miles) meant Louisiana was joining Texas in setting seasons that did not comply with seasons and daily creel limits set by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, through the National Marine Fisheries Service. Florida followed with a move to set seasons in its state waters earlier this year.

Those moves triggered a more restrictive season for federal waters off the Louisiana, Texas and Florida coasts for what was proposed to be a federally controlled June 1 opener for a 27-day recreational red snapper season.

Louisiana’s nine-day and Texas’ 14-day federal seasons brought a lawsuit from those states. In late May, a federal judge ruled the Gulf Council and NMFS were wrong in setting those restrictive seasons.

The GMFMC and NMFS came back with a 28-day Gulfwide recreational season, a period that ended Friday.

Last week’s hearing was the first intervention by Congress and puts onus of developing more consistent monitoring and data-collection plans squarely on federal fish managers.

It also spurred more discussion among GMFMC’s members about regional management for the species, really all reef fish during its June meeting.

For Gulf fishermen, Louisiana’s insistence that it surveys its fishermen for their red snapper catches could mean an open season during the fall for the species. Nothing firm on that yet, but the door is open for that possibility.

Tuesday’s meeting

Dates for dove and the special teal season, and proposed dates for the 2014 spring turkey season are high on the agenda for Tuesday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.

Another item will take a big step in banning what’s become a trespass and potentially harmful activity that’s surfaced along the Comite River.

Seems some folks have taken to running ATVs and big-wheeled 4x4 trucks across and in the Comite River.

The Comite is part of the Louisiana’s Scenic River Program, and the rules and new regulations up for discussion during Tuesday’s meeting will ban the use of all all-terrain vehicles within the waterbeds of all scenic rivers in the state.