A proposed federal rule could dramatically limit red snapper fishing opportunities if enacted next year.

In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on July 27, members of the Alabama congressional delegation and other members of Congress wrote to urge the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to rethink the rule by letting states have more of a role in regulating red snapper fishing.

According to the letter, this new rule would cut annual catch limits (ACLs) by more than fifty percent in states like Mississippi and Alabama because "NMFS calibration method indicates they are underestimating catch."

Under the proposed rule, the annual red snapper catch limit would be 558,200 pounds in Alabama. For the 2022 season, the current red snapper quota is approximately 1.1 million pounds, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

"We urge you to rethink this proposed rule and work with us and our state managers to implement common sense solutions that will untangle this regulatory knot while setting a strong precedent for how state and federal management can work together to more effectively and sustainably manage recreational fisheries," the members wrote in the letter. "We must express our frustration when we see NMFS not only failing to do their part but preventing us in the Gulf from doing ours."

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) said he was "deeply concerned by the NMFS's recent proposed rule regarding calibration and its apparent disregard for the Magnuson-Stevens Act."

"This state-management initiative is no small undertaking, and our Gulf States have gone above and beyond to ensure the best, most sustainable outcome," Shelby said. "However, when NMFS ignores the Great Red Snapper Count and uses outdated and inaccurate data in their decision-making process, it does not seem committed to finding an effective solution to the issue at hand," 

Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) stated, "Folks in south Alabama know how much red snapper we have in the Gulf, and we know how to manage it right. 

"The last thing we need is bureaucrats from Washington, D.C., preventing us from going out and fishing next summer."

The target implementation date chosen by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is January 1, 2023. 

A Department of Commerce spokesman told 1819 News the department "is currently reviewing public comments on this proposed rule and intends to make a determination on the final rule before the Council's requested January 1, 2023 implementation date."

Public comment for the proposed rule closed on July 28.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

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