PANAMA CITY BEACH — With red snapper season becoming shorter each year, many local charter boat captains say they are struggling to keep their heads above water.
However, new legislation that would shift control of a portion of federal waters back to the state is offering area anglers a glimmer of hope for reduced regulations on seasons and bag limits.
U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, introduced the Gulf Fisheries Fairness Act last week. The bill would extend the state water boundaries of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, allowing the states to manage reef fish species like snapper, grouper, amberjack and triggerfish.
With federal management agencies planning for the shortest red snapper season ever this year, Southerland said the legislation would "cast a life preserver to fishermen and coastal economies struggling to stay afloat amid crippling federal regulations."
In Florida, the legislation would reset state water boundaries for reef fish management from nine miles to a depth of 20 fathoms (120 feet), which could reach 60 miles offshore in some areas.
Chip Blackburn, who captains the charter boat "Miss Mary" in Mexico Beach, said if the act were to pass it probably would save his business and others in the area.
"What the legislation will do is give the states the authority to manage the reef fish complex out to 20 fathoms, which is a lot further than nine miles," Blackburn said. "The state would set the seasons, count the fish, basically do with (the reef fish) what they already do with the inshore species."
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National Fisherman Live for March 11, 2014
Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today the appointment of John M.R. Bull as Commissioner of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. John Bull has been with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission since June 2007 and has been serving as Acting Commissioner since January 2014.
PORTSMOUTH, NH - The New Hampshire Fish and Lobster Festival, known locally as Fishtival, invites the community to Portsmouth's Prescott Park each September to honor, celebrate and rediscover the proud tradition of small-scale, local commercial groundfishing in New Hampshire and its valuable contribution to our local food system, local economy and local culture. Now, the mission continues with the announcement of small grants available from the proceeds of the 2013 event.