Texas lawmakers send strong message for course change on chaotic fishery
In a resounding display of frustration with the federal government’s handling of the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, the Texas Legislature recently passed House Concurrent Resolution 105 (HCR 105), encouraging the U.S. Congress to pass legislation or adopt policies allowing the State of Texas to manage the fishery out to 200 nautical miles. Led by Reps. Dennis Bonnen (R-District 25) and Dade Phelan (R-District 21), the resolution breezed through the legislative process this session.
“HCR 105 is a glimmer of hope in what has otherwise been an endless sea of frustration and discouragement for recreational red snapper fishermen,” said John Carlson, President of CCA Texas. “It is clearer than ever that the federal management system is at a dead end and a dramatic course change is needed. We are proud that our state legislators recognize the absurdity of the federal fisheries management system and are standing up for Texas anglers.”
The offshore recreational fishing community in Texas has not had much in the way of good news in recent years. Constrained by a commercially biased federal management system, questionable recreational harvest data, and under-representation at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, private boat recreational anglers have seen their federal red snapper season shrink by 98 percent over the past 10 years.
“After decades of intense federal regulation, a private recreational angler will be able to keep a paltry six fish from federal waters during this year’s three-day red snapper season,” said CCA Texas Executive Director, Robby Byers. “Any fair-minded individual that has been following the dramatic decrease in opportunities for anglers in federal waters would agree that a three-day season is simply absurd.”
Recently Mark Ray, Chairman of CCA Texas, testified before a Untied States Congressional hearing on federal management of the fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. Ray told the House Subcommittee on Interior, Energy and the Environment, chaired by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), that red snapper is a man-made fishery management disaster.
“By any measure, the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico should be held up as a shining example of proper management and good conservation. But as this hearing demonstrates, that is not the case,” he said. “We aren’t here today to highlight a conservation success story. Unfortunately, we are here because red snapper is known throughout the nation as a man-made fishery management disaster. After decades under intense federal management, this is the best that anglers can hope for – a three-day season in federal waters in 2017. I don’t think anyone would declare the current situation a success. All we ask is for is a system that allows all stakeholders the best opportunity to enjoy and use those resources. I am here today to ask this you to give us that chance.”
Announcement of the shortest recreational season in history has sparked widespread outrage on the Gulf Coast and a flurry of activity in state capitals and Congress.
“It is an absolute shame that it has to come to this because a lot of coastal businesses that depend on anglers are going to be negatively impacted by a three-day season. Enough is enough,” said Chairman Ray. “It is time to let the states have the opportunity to reset this fishery in a way that makes sense for all stakeholders.”