And, add four more days to the snapper season for Louisiana anglers. Once a nine-day season, and then 24, it will now be 28.
Due to a court ruling in Texas May 31 that calls for equal seasons for all Gulf states, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday that the federal snapper season would be 28 days for the entire Northern Gulf.
The season opened June 1 and will end at 12:01 a.m. June 29.
Randy Pausina, secretary of fisheries for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, took a celebratory stance, both personally and for the state.
"I do feel vindicated because I was the fool who stood up at the council meetings," Pausina said of his efforts at NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regional hearings. "Here's the judge saying everything the state said."
James Wilson, a retired attorney from New Orleans, who fishes regularly out of Venice and specifically targets red snapper when allowed, was elated with the news but still thinks restrictions are too tight.
"Any addition has to be looked at as good news," Thornton said, "and not just because of the obvious reason of additional opportunity. The federal restrictions are too tight, in my opinion, and are based on a lot of guesswork about populations and catches.
"Whenever you score a win, you have to see it as an advancement toward a change in the system away from total federal management. We have proven that the state is in better position to monitor and manage the Gulf fishery. Our (state fishery officials) are doing a great job. They proved that last month and I hope they keep the pressure up."
Just two weeks ago, Louisiana was looking at a nine-day federal season.
On May 23, it was increased to 24 days after the state successfully showed federal catch estimates for Louisiana's state-specific weekend-only red snapper season were woefully high.
Other states received extensions, too, including Mississippi and Alabama to 34 days. Those two states had remained compliant with federal seasons.
But, that change, which Pausina claimed as a major victory against federal officials, did not satisfy either Louisiana or Texas officials who had filed separate lawsuits challenging their shortened federal seasons.
Due to the original nine-day federal season set for Louisiana and a 12-day season in Texas, the two states challenged federal authority to punish states that were deemed non-compliant with federal regulations because they established additional seasons in state waters.
The two suits were combined, and on Friday in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ruled in favor of the states.
In a 25-page opinion, Hanen even scolded officials for their actions, writing that they "should not be in the business of penalizing states and their citizens merely because they exercised the very rights bestowed upon them by Congress."
Hanen's ruling questioned the impact of the shortened season on the fishery since it did not impact quotas, writing it "does not enhance the conservation of red snapper in any way. All it does is to redistribute the right to fish from Texas, Louisiana and Florida fishermen to the anglers of Mississippi and Alabama."
And, Hanen addressed the heart of the lawsuit, too, which involved the creation and use of "emergency powers" given this spring to NOAA's NMFS Southeast Region administrator Roy Crabtree.
Crabtree used the emergency powers to shorten the federal seasons off the coasts of Florida, Louisiana and Texas, which had set state seasons.
Hanen opined that there was no emergency, ruling that "the fact that states might set their own rules is a circumstance that is well known. First of all, it is provided for in the very act that set up the entire regulatory scheme. Secondly, it is not contested that Texas has set its own season since 1997. Third, in 2008, Texas, Alabama and Florida all set their own seasons."
The judge also used NFMS meeting minutes to show that Crabtree was aware that Louisiana intended to set a state season in 2013.
During the federal season, Louisiana fishermen can fish seven days a week and will will be limited to two red snapper per day, with a minimum size of 16 inches.
After June 28, the weekend-only Louisiana season will resume in state waters. The daily limit will increase to three fish per angler with the same 16-inch minimum. The open days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of the addition of Labor Day Monday.