Red Snapper Win For Anglers
Judge rules NOAA action didn't aid fishery, just penalized states
This past April, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, together with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, filed a joint lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Texas, challenging the emergency rule enacted by the National Marine Fisheries Service that would allow the NMFS regional administrator to significantly reduce the recreational red snapper season in federal waters off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.
Last week, a judgment was rendered in favor of Louisiana and Texas that declares the emergency rule null and void. The ruling means that NMFS must recalculate the 2013 red snapper fishing season in federal waters off to be equal for all Gulf States.
As a result of the ruling, Louisiana officials expect that additional days will be added to the current 24-day federal season, but await NMFS' official announcement. The federal season began June 1, with a bag and possession limit of two fish per person at a 16-inch minimum total length.
"This battle with NOAA has been a long and tedious one, but we are glad to have persevered once again for the people of Louisiana," LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said. "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."
Judge Andrew Hanen issued a 25-page opinion that carefully studied the issues of the emergency rule that could force a shortened snapper fishing season in federal waters off Louisiana.
In his ruling, Judge Hanen contends, "The emergency rule does not change the total catch allowed. It does not enhance the conservation of red snapper in any way. All it does is redistribute the right to fish from Texas, Louisiana and Florida fishermen to the anglers of Mississippi and Alabama."
He goes on to say, "The only rationale, regardless as how characterizes the underlying motive, behind the Emergency Rule is that NMFS is going to penalize the anglers living in the states that enact fishing seasons that do not match the federal season and reward those that do. The NMFS should not be in the business of penalizing state."
"I thank Judge Hanan for his unbiased and candid opinion regarding the measures NMFS was willing to take to penalize Louisiana anglers," LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina said. "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."
The weekend-only Louisiana state red snapper season will resume following the completion of the federal season, with a bag and possession limit of three fish per person at a 16-inch minimum total length. A weekend is defined as a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of Labor Day when Monday will be considered a weekend as well.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.
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