- Associated Press - Thursday, May 25, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana wildlife officials are proposing an experiment that could someday enable private recreational fishermen to catch highly sought Gulf of Mexico red snapper any time of year in federal waters.

The federal season, designed to conserve red snapper, is usually brief. This year it runs June 1-3. Critics say the short season hurts Gulf tackle shops, marinas and other businesses catering to private anglers.

“I asked Wildlife and Fisheries to develop a program that could eventually lead to Louisiana controlling Red Snapper fishing, even in what is determined to be federal waters,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a Thursday news release. “This pilot program could not come soon enough as the federal government has limited anglers to just three days to fish red snapper this year.”

If the proposal is approved by federal regulators, Louisiana would choose 150 people to participate in a pilot program: They could fish in federal waters any time of the year, with an annual limit of 20 red snapper, Assistant Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries Patrick Banks said in an interview.

They would have to use their smartphones, equipped with an app enabling them to record and send data about the catch in real time.

State officials hope to win federal approval from the National Marine Fisheries Service in time to launch the experimental program in 2018, Banks said.

State red snapper seasons run longer than the brief federal seasons. Last year, Louisiana had a 272-day season within its waters up to 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) from the coast. But, Banks said, red snapper are found in deeper water, often beyond the 9-mile (14.5-kilometer) line.

Banks said the goal of the program is to show federal regulators that the state can effectively manage the federal resource.

“The feds aren’t going to give us authority over those federal waters until we prove to them that we know how to actively manage that fishery,” Banks said.


Online: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/document/documents

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