In a press release released today by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Secretary Robert Barham expressed relief that the current battle with federal fisheries managers over the State’s red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) fishery has come to an end.
“Glad to Have Persevered”
“This battle with NOAA has been a long and tedious one,” Barham said, “but we are glad to have persevered once again for the people of Louisiana. Louisiana is the Sportsman’s Paradise, and we intend to take every action necessary to make sure it remains so. It is my sincere hope, that as we move forward we can work with officials at NMFS and NOAA to make joint decisions on what is best for the waters we know and monitor so closely.”
LDFW, along with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department had sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in federal court over an emergency rule that allowed the regional administrator to reduce the length of the recreational red snapper fishing in federal waters off states that set less restrictive state regulations. Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanan overturned the emergency rule.
“I thank Judge Hanan for his unbiased and candid opinion regarding the measures NMFS was willing to take to penalize Louisiana anglers,” said LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. “Our federal counterparts thought they could use this heavy-handed approach to control regulations in Louisiana waters and that we would not fight back. They were wrong and once again we have shown that you cannot lose when science and facts are on your side.”
Not Everyone Agrees
Not everyone is in full agreement with Pausina when it comes to the science and the facts. Some fisheries biologists have warned that, while it does appear as if red snapper stocks are recovering nicely in the Gulf, the overall longterm health of the stock is far from assured. Red snapper are a long-lived species that do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least a decade old. So while there may be a lot of snapper in the Gulf of Mexico as anecdotally reported by recreational and commercial anglers, the important factor to consider is the age of those fish. As NOAA put it in a document titled “Framing the Red Snapper Issue in the Gulf of Mexico” in March of this year:
While the fish are growing in numbers and size, a healthy population also requires an appropriate mix of fish of different ages. Red snapper is a species with a long life-span—they can reach over fifty years of age—and older red snapper females are the biggest egg producers. Since catch limits were reduced six years ago, none of the resulting young fish have yet reached their peak productive years. Continued restrictions are designed not only to increase abundance, but also to allow females to come of age. That’s the most effective way to achieve the still higher yields expected in the future.