Five southern Republican lawmakers are calling on U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to extend the number of days for this year's recreational red snapper season.
Among those signing a letter sent to Ross on Monday is U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, who calls the current three-day recreational season as "simply not acceptable."
The season is scheduled to run from June 1-3. It makes it the shortest recreational season ever for red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico's federal waters.
"Anyone who knows anything about Gulf Coast fisheries would agree that the red snapper fishery is incredibly healthy," Byrne said.
The letter was signed by Byrne and fellow U.S. House members - John Carter and Randy Weber of Texas, Garret Graves of Louisiana and Steven Palazzo of Mississippi.
"We feel re-evaluating your agency's decision for the 2017 seasons is warranted, and we urge you to continue working with us to develop a long-term solution to address these issues impacting our recreational fishermen and coastal communities," the letter states.
The letter also illustrates an effort by coastal GOP lawmakers to pressure President Donald Trump's administration in taking immediate action in extending the fishing dates. Trump could extend the dates by signing an executive order, although there is no indication that he is poised to do so.
Graves, earlier this month, told a New Orleans TV station that the shortened red snapper season is something that Trump "needs to fix."
Bryne, in an online blog post on Monday, said he's hopeful that Trump "can get some relief" to the limited days.
"President Trump is a big believer in rolling back regulations and getting the government out of our way," said Byrne. "There is no better example of big government micromanagement and failure than the red snapper issue."
The letter, sent to Ross on Monday, is a follow-up to a March 21 letter to Ross in which lawmakers - including Byrne - requested the then-newly confirmed Commerce Secretary to utilize state assessments of the Gulf's red snapper stock.
In Monday's letter, the lawmakers once again questioned the accuracy of federal data to assess the number of red snapper in the Gulf.
They also accuse the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which falls under Ross' purview, for penalizing recreational fishermen for utilizing statistics they believe to be inaccurate.
NOAA, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, regulates the nation's federal waters and is the entity responsible for establishing the limited recreational dates and quotas.
The number of recreational fishing dates in the Gulf have dropped significantly in recent years, from 193 days in 2006 to three this year.
Meanwhile, there is a wide discrepancy in the number of allowable fishing days for recreational anglers and those for commercial interests. At present, for example, charter boats can fish for 49 days.
Red snapper in Alabama state waters, which extends for nine nautical miles from shoreline, is scheduled to last 67 days from May 26 to July 31.
Byrne and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby have been touting their roles in getting the state waters extended through federal appropriations legislation. Previously, the state's boundaries were three miles from shoreline.
Byrne has also defended his position in pushing for an extended federal season, claiming that it's one of his top priorities. He, along with Shelby and other Republican lawmakers, have been criticized in recent weeks by frustrated anglers who believe not enough pressure has been exerted that could lead to an extended season.
Said Byrne, "I want to be clear: Red snapper is not an issue that just comes up once a year in my office. In fact, we work year round to increase awareness, build support, and push for a permanent solution. We are utilizing a strategy focused on both an administrative and legislative solution."...Read more