WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS), today questioned Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about the shortened red snapper season for recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico. His comments came during a subcommittee hearing to review the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request for the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Senator Shelby highlighted his provision in the FY17 Omnibus bill that permanently extended state fishery boundaries in the Gulf in an effort to provide more days on the water, particularly for recreational anglers.
He continued, “Despite these efforts, the Department has continued to decrease fishing days for recreational fisherman. What was once a 46-day season back in 2012 has dwindled to merely three days in 2017.”
Senator Shelby questioned the Commerce Secretary about his plan to address this problem.
Secretary Ross stated that “the management of this fishery is a high priority for the Department. … I have fairly good confidence that we will end up with far more than the three-day season that had originally been laid out in the allocation of catch.”
Senator Shelby followed up by stating, “I have never seen [red snapper] fish so large and so abundant in the Gulf. Nobody wants to overfish anything. … but to under-fish it is a dangerous thing too, and it affects the whole Gulf of Mexico.”
Following the hearing, Senator Shelby said, “I am pleased that the Commerce Department took the Subcommittee’s direction and is working directly with our Gulf States to address the recently-shortened recreational red snapper fishing season. Any solution this year should also include establishing a state-led pilot program for red snapper management, as directed by a provision I authored in the 2017 Omnibus spending bill. I will continue to press Secretary Ross and the Administration on this issue. It is critical that we get our Gulf fishermen back on the water.”
In the FY17 Omnibus bill, Senator Shelby authored a provision that included funding for independent, non-NOAA stock assessments for Gulf reef fish, including red snapper. The provision also directs NOAA to count fish on artificial reefs and other offshore infrastructure, and to incorporate those counts into future stock assessments and management decisions for reef fish in the Gulf.