- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

FAIRHOPE, Ala. (AP) - A house representative says Alabama anglers could be faced with the most restrictive red snapper quota ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Fisheries Service estimates this year’s season for recreational fishing will be capped at “six to nine days,” U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne told Al.com (https://bit.ly/1TENAL0). The 2015 season was 10 days, up one day from 2014’s record low of nine.

This year’s limits are set to be revealed in coming weeks. Byrne, however, warned that they may be even lower than those prompting public protest in 2014 and 2015.

Byrne said changes to red snapper fishing limits are included in a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law enacted in 1970s regulating marine fisheries management in the U.S.

The commercial charter/for-hire season will be from 30-56 days, Byrne added. The 2015 season was 44 days.

“It’s very disappointing,” Byrne said. “It’s very much like what we had last summer. … This derby season is not good for anybody and it could be dangerous.”

Red snapper season is set to begin June 1.

Byrne, meanwhile, is praising one change with this year’s red snapper season: Alabama’s state waters will be extended out nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico for the purpose of reef fish management. The waters previously stretched three miles. The extended territory allows more oversight of the fishery by state regulators.

The expanded miles were included in last year’s federal appropriations bill. The change applies to the coastlines of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

“This is the first time for Alabama to control its own water,” Bryne said. “The state has shown a reasonableness about their regulation of the fishery … All of us involved in this believe the state strikes the right balance out there.”

Chris Blankenship, director of Alabama’s Marine Resources Division at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the extended mileage gives anglers a sense of ease.

“The extension of the state waters to nine miles will be good for citizens,” he said. “The people who fished out there were uneasy about (the federal regulated waters).”

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