Although an amendment that would have transferred management of red snapper to the five Gulf states was withdrawn yesterday before the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act,  the potential for state management of the fishery in the future is still a real possibility, according to the head of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., withdrew on Monday his amendment from the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which is the primary statute governing the nation’s marine fisheries.

“The short answer is it’s not off the table,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “What happened yesterday was the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rob Bishop from Utah, and the lead author of the bill that was debated, Don Young from Alaska, committed to Mr. Graves that they would support him in his efforts to advance a stand-alone piece of legislation to move this five-state plan forward.

“Basically, Mr. Graves has the commitment of the leadership that they’re going to do something with the five-state plan, and he withdrew the amendment from consideration on the floor yesterday because that’s how leadership asked that it be handled. I expect we’re going to have a hearing on the five-state plan at some point this summer.”

That way, Angers said Congress could give its entire attention to the five-state snapper plan, which would effectively remove the federal government from management of the fishery.

“When you think about it, there are no other sportsman’s issues that are in crisis in the entire country other than the Gulf of Mexico that Congress needs to pay attention to. And if anything cries out for an Act of Congress more than this, frankly, I don’t know it,” Angers said. “When the commercial fleet is on the water 365 days, when the charter fleet is going to be on the water for six weeks and when my family and private recreational anglers get to be on the water for one weekend during a 10-day season, I think that’s just baloney.

“And I will tell you Congress thinks it’s baloney, too.”

Now that the House has authorized its version of Magnuson-Stevens, Angers said action would shift to the Senate, where Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is expected to present his own Magnuson bill.

“The question is how do the two chambers reconcile the differences between their approaches, because the House and Senate always approach things differently. We’ve got to cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said. “For the time being, the key thing about Magnuson is it’s moving. Congress is paying attention to fish for the first time in a long time, and it’s starting to move.

"I expect to see some action in the Senate this month.”