The road to potential state-based management of the Gulf’s red snapper fishery will begin Thursday afternoon when the U.S. House Natural Resources subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hears a bill by Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves.

Graves (R-La.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) authored legislation that would extend formal federal recognition to an agreement between the chief fish and wildlife officials of all five Gulf states to accept joint responsibility for management of the red snapper fishery in federal waters. 

Red snapper management is currently under the jurisdiction of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

“This should be a full vetting of the pros and cons of the status quo versus the pros and cons of the states doing what states do best, which is manage fish for public access to fish,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.  

The legislation would remove red snapper from federal authority and place responsibility for the species in the hands of the Gulf states through a new, independent body called the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority (GSRSMA). To view a video released by the State of Louisiana in support of regional management, click here

“I would encourage your readers to be in touch with their members of Congress, especially if they live in the districts of Chairman John Fleming or Congressman Graves, because those are the two members of Congress from Louisiana who are going to be in the public arena of ideas on Thursday,” Angers said. “Chairman Fleming should be encouraged to use his steady hand as chairman to guide this to passage, and Graves — who is really carrying the water for anglers all across the Gulf and for the five states and five governors — he might need a quick email of thanks and support. 

“Because surely people on the other side are going to be lobbing brickbats at him. It’s always nice to throw a rose petal or two.”

The 24-member subcommittee — composed of 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats — will hear the legislation beginning at 1 pm central time on Thursday. The proceedings can be viewed online here.

To contact Graves’ office, call 202-225-3901. To leave a message for Fleming, call 202-225-2777. 

No decision will be reached on the legislation this week, Angers said.

“Thursday is only the legislative hearing. All they do is listen and they may ask questions,” he said. “But scheduling a time to mark the bill up — that is, to consider amendments and to pass it or kill it — that comes at a later date. 

“We don’t know when that is, but we’d like it to be sooner than later, and we’ll be encouraging that it be sooner than later.”