H.R. 3094: Bad for Red Snapper, Gulf Businesses & the Nation

Recreational anglers, commercial and charter fishermen and seafood consumers throughout the nation love red snapper. Its popularity in the Gulf provides an important revenue source for local business, recently bringing as much as $23 million into our fishing communities each year.

Red snapper, photo via NOAA

Red snapper, photo via NOAA

Let’s Not Roll Back 40 Years of Progress

Red snapper haven’t always been this abundant: for decades, fishery managers allowed continued overfishing on this species, causing red snapper stocks to crash in the 1980s and 1990s. Thankfully, better management in recent years under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) has allowed red snapper fisheries to slowly rebuild in the Gulf, and quotas for recreational and commercial fishermen have nearly tripled in the last decade.

And while the iconic species has yet to fully recover, its greater numbers have led some anglers to want to expand fishing opportunities beyond what red snapper populations can handle right now.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act contains strong measures to ensure that conservation is the foundation of any management plan. Unfortunately, in the last session of Congress, Representative Garret Graves introduced H.R. 3094, the “Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act,” to circumvent federal law.

Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act: Unfunded Mandate, Dangerous Precedent

  • This careless bill proposed to strip the management of red snapper away from the Congressionally-created stakeholder management system and hand it over to state agencies to manage. These agencies are not required to comply with the Magnuson-Steven Act’s science and conservation requirements. And although management of the expanded fishery would have financially burdened state governments and taxpayers, the bill did not provide states any additional funding to successfully make this transition.
  • The Marine Fish Conservation Network opposed the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act because it would have rolled back 40 years of federal fishery management progress made under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and put at risk the recovery of Gulf red snapper and the livelihoods of fishermen and small businesses across the Gulf region and the country.
  • In addition, this legislation would have set a dangerous precedent for federal fisheries everywhere across the country by allowing special interests to take away federal management of fish stocks that are successfully recovering under the federal fisheries law and over exploit them under state management.
  • Lastly, this bill would have permitted politicians on Capitol Hill to legislate benefits for one user group instead of allowing local stakeholders to work out a course of action themselves. The Gulf Council has initiated a private angler management strategy with input from a private angler advisory panel, which gives fishermen a chance to bring viable solution to the table. Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act would have thwarted this grassroots, public process.

We Should Improve Red Snapper Management Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act

Instead of pursuing another controversial bill, Congress should focus on fixing and improving recreational red snapper management under the Magnuson-Stevens Act rather than handing it off to the Gulf States, as previous legislation called for.

Legislative Activity Last Congress Around the Red Snapper Bill