(Galveston, Texas – May 15, 2013) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)  responded today to Gulf Council Chairman Doug Boyd’s letter dated April 25, 2013, requesting regulations associated with Amendment 30B to the Fishery Management Plan be removed via emergency rulemaking prior to the June 1, 2013 consequently allowing the private recreational and Charter-for-Hire industry equal access to the Red Snapper Fishery.

The NMFS has made its intentions known that 30B will not be rescinded stating, “While the 30B rule has become increasingly controversial in recent years as the recreational red snapper season has become increasingly shorter, many have still expressed support for the provision based on a more complete understanding of the impacts associated with rescinding the rule. The Council’s emergency rule request was discussed in the closing minutes of the April 2013 Council meeting, and the discussion was not informed by any meaningful analysis or a thorough consideration of the facts. NOAA Fisheries suggests that any future action to rescind the 3DB rule is more appropriately addressed through the normal rulemaking process and a much more informed and deliberate consideration of the underlying facts and potential impacts. “

The NMFS also stated, “In summary, NOAA Fisheries finds the Council’s requested action to rescind the 30B rule is not warranted and would not be feasible to implement before the start of the June 1, 2013, recreational red snapper fishing season. The Council has failed to compellingly document that the action is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, other applicable law, and NOAA Fisheries’ policy guidelines for the use of emergency rules. Further, the Council has not presented sufficient rationale in support of the request, including how the stated benefits of the requested action justify the associated adverse impacts, and has not demonstrated that it understands the full impacts of the request.”

Beginning in 2007 the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council enacted measures to restrict recreational landings in territorial state waters by passing of Rule 30B. This Rule requires that all federally permitted Charter Boats must follow the more restrictive federal Red Snapper season. Thus, the Council used the federal permit requirement on all charter boats as a way to deny a large portion of the recreational fishermen and an entire industry access to fishing in their own state. Per this letter dated on May 14, 2013, the NMFS will continue to deny the federally permitted Charter Boat Industry equal access to the fishery. 

In addition, Chairman Boyd’s letter of April 25, 2013, requested that the recently published emergency rule (78 FR 17882) be rescinded. The emergency rule provides NOAA Fisheries the authority to close federal waters to red snapper fishing on a state-by-state basis.  The letter lays out three possible options to rescind the existing emergency rule: (1) another emergency action, (2) correction of an erroneous rule, and (3) non-implementation. The NMFS disagrees with all three and has no intention to resend the emergency rule that punishes the permitted charter boats regardless of the fact that as Federal Permit Holders they have been abiding by the agency’s more restrictive regulations.

To the emergence rule, the NMFS summarized by stating , “NOAA Fisheries finds the Council’s request to remove the current emergency rule, which provides the Regional Administrator the authority to adjust recreational red snapper fishing seasons in federal waters off individual states, is not warranted. The Council has failed to provide sufficient and compelling reason for its request to reverse its previous decision.”

Today’s letters clarified the intentions of The National Marine Fisheries Service and abandoned Charter boat industry  due to another federal failure to manage our fisheries in any manner that is fair or equitable from the standpoint of a Federal permit holder.