"We want our fishermen to be able to fish for snapper," commission Chair Ann Taylor said. "I think the stat has done a wonderful job managing our fish."
Commissioner Ronald Graham proposed in May a notice of intent notice of intent, which if passed, would open red snapper fishing on the Saturday before Palm Sunday (March 24 in 2013) and allow fishing Friday through Sunday through September.
The combination of extending state waters and any action to provide more fishing opportunities within those waters would be a welcome respite from what many agree has been mismanagement of the red snapper fisheries.
"We don't think that the snapper fishery is being managed correctly," Taylor said. "(Federal officials) don't even count rigs in their snapper population estimates; what's that about?
"That's ridiculous. Something has to change."
Taylor was quick to point out that, while commissioners are definitely sending a signal to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the hope is that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and federal managers will come to agreement on how to better manage the offshore fisheries.
"We certainly want to cooperate with the feds in the (needed) changes," she said. "But it was apparent that they weren't willing to address our situation."
Adjusting the boundary also was a matter of fairness, pointing out that only Louisiana and Mississippi are the only Gulf state whose territorial waters stop at the three-mile mark.
"Texas has 10 miles, Florida has 10 miles, Alabama has 10 miles," Taylor said. "That doesn't make sense that we only have three miles."
Mississippi currently only has been given authority over three miles of the Gulf of Mexico by the federal government.
Action to extend the state boundary to 10.357 miles was based on 2011's Act 336, which recognizes that the Louisiana Gulf-ward boundary historically consists of three marine leagues and designates that boundary to be enforced by state law regarding the protection and restoration of coastal lands, waters and natural resources and regulation of activities affecting them.
However, there is some uncertainty about the commission's move, since a part of Act 336 states that the legislation will not go into effect until recognized by the U.S. Congress, which to date has not happened.
That said, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham, a proponent of the state-water extension, praised commissioners.
"Today's action by the commission supports what the governor, legislature and people of Louisiana want to see from our department," Barham said. "The bountiful resources that are native to Louisiana's waters should be managed beyond the three-mile boundary currently recognized by the federal regulatory body, and this is a bold first step by Louisiana in claiming what is rightful ours."
Barham said LDWF enforcement agents will only enforce state regulations within that 10-mile range.
"They're doing it now," he said in mid June.
However, his agency warned fishermen to "use caution and their own personal judgment when fishing beyond the three-mile boundary that is currently recognized as federal waters, as it is fully expected that federal agents will continue to enforce federal law."