Baton Rouge, LA – During the October meeting on Thursday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission opted not to vote on a proposal to give anglers additional access to red snapper during the fall of 2017.
Several commissioners said they were concerned that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) did not have the snapper harvest numbers from the four other Gulf Coast states, and that harvest could cause the overall gulf-wide quota to be exceeded. The overall catch numbers for 2017, especially if it far exceeds the gulf-wide quota, could affect both the federal and state red snapper season in 2018.
Earlier this summer, the Gulf Coast states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida – were granted a 39-day extension to allow private recreational anglers to fish for red snapper in federal waters out to 200 nautical miles from their coasts. That extension ended on September 4, 2017.
Representatives from the Coastal Conservation Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership requested the commission delay approval of a fall red snapper season until the catch data from the other four Gulf States is announced.
They also voiced concern about an Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) federal lawsuit challenging the 39-day season, suggesting that a quota over-run would benefit the EDF legal standing.
Jack Montoucet, LDWF Secretary, had proposed the fall state season after the 39-day federal season ended with Louisiana being 107,000 pounds below its self-imposed limit of 1.04 million pounds. The self-imposed limit represented approximately 15.5% of the estimated gulf-wide quota and is equal to the historical percentage of the gulf-wide annual harvest taken by Louisiana’s recreational anglers. Harvest of less than this self-imposed limit will represent a decreased share of the overall gulf-wide recreational landings, especially if the overall gulf-wide quota is exceeded in 2017.
The state-waters season proposal would have provided red snapper fishing on weekends only, possibly into December of this year.
Commission Chairman Chad Courville announced that he would convene a special meeting of the commission to consider a fall season if the catch numbers from the other four Gulf states show the overall catch quota had not been reached. It is unclear when official gulf-wide catch data will be released from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).