Officials along the Gulf Coast are in negotiations with federal agencies in hopes of finding a compromise that could allow red snapper fishing in federal waters through Sept. 4 this year.
While the three-day 2017 snapper season, which ran June 1 through June 3, has already come and gone, a message from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) provided a glimmer of hope for anglers on Friday.
According to ADCNR, state officials from Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana have been in talks with the United States Department of Commerce and several congressmen from their respective areas on how to develop a plan for more snapper fishing opportunities in 2017.
Though nothing is finalized at the moment, the current proposal would see “state and federal waters open on Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2017, beginning June 17.
The proposal would also open up federal waters, which start nine miles from the coastline, for the extended holiday weekends on the Fourth of July and Labor Day — potentially adding more than 20 days to a federal season initially scheduled for three.
However, ADCNR said the compromise would come at the expense of the more lengthy seasons set in state waters, which would “close on weekdays during the summer of 2017” under the proposal being discussed currently.The agency put out a statement through its social media feeds on Friday, saying it would provide more detailed information when a final decision has been made and the applicable dates were finalized.
While initial feedback from fishermen has been positive, many still have concerns with the proposal — some opposed to cutting into the 49-day season set for Alabama waters earlier this year, and others seeing it as a band-aid on the larger problem of federal overreach.
Others were concerned that, without changing the rules used to set the seasons in federal waters, the increased catch from the proposed extension could cause overages in pre-set quotas that could adversely affect the length of the 2018 season.
Every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses reported fishing numbers, mathematical modeling and other data to calculate the length of the private fishing season, which is different from the commercial season.In 2015 and 2016, the federal government initially set nine-day seasons, and 2017’s season was initially set for three days due, in part, to overages in the quotas that were set for last year’s catch.
No matter the outcome of the current proposal, the issues surrounding the federal snapper season is still a hot-button issue along the Gulf Coast. Last weekend, dozens of boats convened at Perdido Pass for a floating protest aimed at the shortened 2017 season.
Several local cities and counties have also made the issue and talking point, with many sending declarations to federal officials complaining about how protracted seasons for popular sport fish have negative impacts on the Gulf Coast economy.