By Congressman Bradley Byrne
We recently had a major victory for our area’s Red Snapper fishermen and the coastal communities, which benefit from a longer Red Snapper season.
Last Wednesday, the federal Department of Commerce announced an emergency extension of the 2017 Red Snapper season for recreational fishermen. As you probably remember, it was announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earlier this year that the Red Snapper season would be just three days, the shortest season ever.
Under the emergency extension, the season for recreational fishermen now includes Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between now and Labor Day. The season will also include July 3rd and 4th and Labor Day. This adds up to an overall extension of 39 days.
As soon as the three-day season was announced, my staff and I went to work to on an extension. We partnered with other Gulf Coast congressmen in sending a letter to the Department of Commerce requesting an extension, and then worked with the Department and the Gulf states to iron out the details.
Many people helped make this extension possible, and they deserve to be acknowledged. I appreciate President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for paying attention to our concerns and working to address this issue. The staff at the Department of Commerce was easy to work with as we put this extension together.
I also cannot say enough about the help from Chris Blankenship, the acting commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Chris has always been a joy to work with on Red Snapper issues, and he played a critical role in helping get the other Gulf states on board with this agreement.
I also want to thank the local and state officials, as well as the grassroots supporters and fishermen, who helped bring attention to this issue. I firmly believe your efforts made a difference.
One of the other people who played a critical role in making this agreement a reality was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise from Louisiana. Congressman Scalise expected to make news on Wednesday morning talking about the Red Snapper news, but he unfortunately made national headlines for a different reason.
He was one of the individuals tragically shot during a practice for the Congressional Baseball Game. Steve Scalise is a wonderful man, a personal friend, and a true advocate for the Gulf Coast. I hope you will join me in continuing to pray for Steve and his family as he goes through the recovery process.
Ultimately, it was a total team effort to make this emergency extension a reality. This is a real victory for all our recreational fishermen as well as our coastal communities.
All this said, the extension applies only to the 2017 season. We must continue our efforts to find a permanent legislative solution that gives more authority over setting Red Snapper seasons to the five Gulf states.
Discussions are ongoing between my office and other Gulf Coast congressmen in the House on legislation to address the issue, but we also need a willing partner in the Senate to help push our Red Snapper reforms in that body.
As I have said before, I am not giving up on this issue until we get a solution. Not only is it critically important to our fishermen and the economies in our coastal communities, but it is also a shining example of the kind of government overreach and incompetence that has become all too common in today’s federal government.
I encourage all our fishermen to enjoy the extended 2017 Red Snapper season, but to join me in not letting up the pressure as we work toward a permanent solution.