MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The federal government says private recreational anglers will have only nine days to fish for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, but at least one Gulf state said Wednesday that won't apply in its waters.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this year's season Tuesday based on scientific studies of the Gulf and past catches of red snapper, a highly prized fish across the region. The federal season begins June 1, running nine days for private recreational fishing and 46 days for hired charter boats.
However, Alabama officials say they have authority to regulate fishing in state waters nine miles from shore, and they're setting a 66-day red snapper season.
Waters will be open for recreational red snapper fishing from May 27-July 31, Chris Blankenship, director of the Marine Resources Division in Alabama's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said in a news release.
He said federal legislation from last December allows the state to manage reef fish nine miles from shore.
Blankenship said the federal season "will be the shortest ever for private vessels." But he said state biologists "have assessed the resource in our waters, and we feel that there are enough red snapper in Alabama waters to open an additional season to give our citizens the ability to catch more red snapper this year."
Rep. Bradley Byrne represents Alabama's Gulf Coast in Congress and calls the short federal season a disgrace. He says there are plenty of red snapper in the Gulf, and enacting such a short season creates safety risks for anglers who want to catch them.
Congress has failed to enact reforms supported by Gulf Coast lawmakers.
"We will continue to work with the federal government and the other Gulf states to responsibly manage this great fishery in federal waters while also allowing proper management in Alabama waters," said N. Gunter Guy Jr., commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "However, the incredibly short federal red snapper season is uncalled for."