- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - State marine officials are meeting next week on new rules for a shorten red snapper season but frustration is already growing among Mississippi fishermen.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources meeting is Tuesday in Biloxi. Officials are seeking input on the management of red snapper and data collection methods. The meeting is also open to discussion on the recent decision by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to reduce the length of the season.

Recreational and charter boat fishermen enjoyed more than 40 days of red snapper fishing in 2013 and were anticipating a similar season this year.

Commercial fishermen won a lawsuit claiming the recreational side isn’t accountable enough with its red snapper catch.

The result? An 11-day season for 2014. Officials said the shorter season is needed to ensure the future of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. The length of red snapper season has varied greatly over the years. In 2007, the season was 180 days long.

The frustration is building among Mississippi recreational fishermen. Louisiana fishermen are also upset.

“I had a lot of trips booked after the 11 days that I can’t run. I’m going to lose between $4,000 and $5,000 on trips that I had, not counting possible trips that I could have booked,” charter boat captain Jay Trochesset told WLOX-TV in Biloxi (http://bit.ly/1mXX2JP).

Trochesset said there are plenty of snapper in the Gulf of Mexico justify a season longer than 11 days.

“It’s real frustrating. Because there’s more snapper out there than there ever were and the gulf council has no clue. It’s just, it’s a bad deal for recreational charter fishermen off Mississippi,” said Trochesset.

Marine resources agency executive director Jamie Miller said fishing data collected by the department helps determine the annual quota of red snapper allowed by the federal management program.

“We’ve got to look long term at management practices. How we want to manage this fishery? Who do we want to put in charge of that? We feel like the states probably have the best options of managing it. So we’ll be inviting all those ideas and discussing them Tuesday,” Miller said.

In April, a federal judge ruled federal regulators had been mismanaging the recreational red snapper catch for years. The judge said regulators, including the council and NOAA Fisheries, failed to ensure that anglers stayed within their expected catch and failed to hold them accountable by cutting back subsequent seasons enough to compensate for previous excesses.

The council and NOAA Fisheries set the recreational seasons according to estimates of how long it will take anglers to catch their limit.

Commercial boats, which are allocated 51 percent of the annual quota, are regulated differently. Since 2007, each boat has been given a quota and must stop fishing for red snapper when it hits that limit. They always have stayed within their quota but recreational fishermen have exceeded their share in six of the past seven years, the judge said.

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