Apr 23 2015

Shelby Presses Commerce Secretary on Red Snapper

WASHINGTON, DC – Thursday, April 23, 2015 – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), yesterday sent a letter regarding red snapper to Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.  In the letter, Shelby stated his concerns with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s mismanagement of the red snapper fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and highlighted new accountability and oversight measures that he included in the fiscal year 2015 CJS funding bill.

“Year after year, commercial and recreational anglers have fewer fishing opportunities due to NOAA’s misguided practices regarding red snapper,” said Senator Shelby.  “The red snapper fishery is a key economic driver and is integral to the way of life on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.  The federal government’s failure to properly oversee red snapper stocks has a damaging impact on fishermen and businesses alike, which is why I will continue to fight for improved management, sounder science, and more accurate data to help commercial and recreational fishermen gain increased access to the robust red snapper population on the Gulf.”

In his letter to Secretary Pritzker, Senator Shelby stressed the importance of four key provisions that he authored in the fiscal year 2015 CJS appropriations bill and urged the Secretary to ensure that these reforms are implemented in a timely manner.  The reforms outlined in the letter include:

(1)   Funding to establish a cost-shared electronic reporting program for charter vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, which will allow them to have more days to fish for red snapper this year and into the future;

(2)   Directing NOAA to improve red snapper stock assessments in the Gulf by taking into account the population benefits for red snapper that are provided by artificial reefs and other offshore man-made structures, such as oil rigs;  

(3)   Concluding that NOAA’s data collection system, called the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), which serves as the primary source of information used to make management decisions for recreational fishing in the Gulf, is simply inadequate.  The Committee found that MRIP has not yet achieved its intended purpose — to provide increased certainty for NOAA to carry out more equitable management of the red snapper fishery;  and

(4)   Requiring the Government Accountability Office to review MRIP methodologies, including the general practices and procedures of NOAA’s fisheries science centers, to provide recommendations for how the agency can address the program’s shortfalls. 

Senator Shelby has long been a critic of NOAA’s management of the red snapper fishery and has been instrumental in securing critical reforms in Congress to ensure that both commercial and recreational fishermen have increased access to the red snapper population in the Gulf.

To view the full letter from Senator Shelby to Secretary Pritzker, click here.