The battle over red snapper regulations that has pitted Gulf of Mexico states against federal authorities has taken a new twist, as a congressional bill that would give the states oversight has proved to be a hard sell.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Charles Melancon is wary of the bill, proposed by Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.), which is intended to address long-expressed concerns by sport fishermen saddled by a nine-day annual season. Commercial fishermen are governed by annual individual fishing quotas, to the consternation of recreationals. The sport fleets wants a bigger share than their current 51.5 percent (up from the longstanding 49 percent) and say that can only happen if the states manage the fishery.
Melancon – the only state fishing chief known to have objections – is concerned that a takeover by the states will result in an unfunded mandate for snapper research and enforcement for Louisiana.
There are other concerns, from commercial fishermen and dealers. They fear that the plan, heavily supported by the Coastal Conservation Association, could result in Louisiana’s state legislators claiming snapper as a game fish, as was done decades ago with redfish.
“The only thing that protects us from that is keeping it under federal management,” said David Maginnis of Gulf Fish in Terrebonne Parish.
The Louisiana split, still unresolved, led to a rancorous exchange between Graves, who showed up uninvited to address state fisheries commissioners at their August meeting, and Melancon, himself a former congressman. Melancon branded Graves’ statement a “Pinocchio speech.”
“Did you just call me a liar?” Graves said.
“Yes sir,” Melancon snapped.