Miss. regulators adopt new federal red snapper rules

Published 6:35 pm Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mississippi regulators have adopted new federal guidelines for red snapper fishing in state waters in the Gulf of Mexico, including a rule that cuts in half the recreational bag limit.

The Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources voted 2-1 Tuesday to bring the state’s regulations into alignment with federal changes to protect the stressed saltwater fish.

State waters extend 9 nautical miles from shore.

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Commissioner Jimmy Taylor, who represents charter boats and cast the lone vote against the new rules, said weaker regulations in neighboring states would put Mississippi operators at a competitive disadvantage.

“The charter boat people are really getting beat up,” Taylor said. “This is just a tough thing for our guys. Hopefully though, the red snapper population will turn around.”

Commissioners Shelby Drummond and Oliver Sahuque voted for the change, according to a www.sunherald.com article.

In March, the National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to reduce the recreational snapper catch from four fish to two per fisherman. The NMFS also said commercial fisherman can keep snapper that are 13 inches instead of 15 inches, but reduced the allowable catch from 9.1 million pounds to 6.5 million pounds.

The new rules took effect this month.

The species was declared overfished in 1997, and sport and commercial fishermen have limits on the number and size of red snapper they can take. But conservationists have said those limits are far too low to let the fish rebound by 2032 — the last possible target date under current regulations.