Plagued by overfishing, the red snapper’s population started to diminish dramatically in the past several decades. Federal fishing managers moved to limit the fishing time (now at 28 days) to continue to allow the species’ numbers to increase. And they have. A new spring count should shed more light as to the health of the tasty fish.
Unfortunately, states along the Gulf of Mexico, including Florida, are angling to open up the catch season for red snapper in state waters. Texas and Louisiana already have.
On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will consider having a 44-day fishing season for red snapper within state waters — up to nine miles from shore. That’s the wrong call.
If Florida adds more days, then federal fishery managers will cut the season in federal waters to 21 days, starting June 1. This will, in effect, punish commercial fishermen who have followed the rules for six years, staying under the red snapper limit by about 2 percent a year. By contrast, recreational fishermen during that same period have exceeded their catch limits by a whopping 44 percent.
Before opening up any more fishing days, the state should wait for the latest count and base the rules on science not whim.