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Feds: Gulf states manage red snapper anglers for 2 years

States on the Gulf of Mexico can set recreational seasons this year and next for red snapper, a popular catch that’s still recovering from nearly disastrous overfishing, the federal government said.

The experimental permits will let Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Texas track the catch, with each state closing its season when it reaches its quota, according to a Commerce Department news release Tuesday.

Red snapper has been a hot issue in the Gulf, with seasons getting shorter and shorter as fish got bigger and more numerous. The problem, according to NOAA Fisheries, was that recreational anglers regularly caught far more than their quotas, and the overage for one season meant fewer days for the next. State agencies said NOAA was using bad data.

Louisiana asked to manage charter boats, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration kept that authority, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said in a news release Monday. Its allocation is about 743,000 pounds, and its application recommended a May 25 opening date, the statement said.

Mississippi is splitting its 137,949-pound quota proportionally, with 135,149 pounds for recreational fishermen and 2,800 pounds for for-hire boats, according to a news release Tuesday from its Department of Marine Resources. Its opening day will be May 25 — the Friday before Memorial Day, with Labor Day set for closing. If necessary to ensure the quota isn’t met earlier, the season might close from July 9-22, the department said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said April 6 that the state would open its waters every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June 1 to Sept. 2, plus July 2-5 and Sept. 3, with a bag limit of two per person with a 16-inch (41-centimeter) minimum length.

The Texas Parks and Wildllife Department said its year-round season would continue in state waters, with a projected 82-day season to start June 1 in federal waters.

Florida announced a 40-day season from June 11-July 20.

On April 13, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed a limited red snapper season in the South Atlantic, where all red snapper has been off limits since 2014 — except for two weekends in late 2017 — with the catch limit set to match total landings in 2014.

South Atlantic anglers could take one snapper per day, with a total recreational limit of 29,656 fish. The commercial limit would be 124,815 pounds.

The comment period for that proposal began Monday and ends June 15.

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