These days there is ongoing debate, particularly in the red snapper industry, over whether fisheries should be managed by state or federal entities.
Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, the federal government regulates fisheries beyond 3 nautical miles in all states except for Texas and the Gulf side of Florida. (A nautical mile is equal to 1.15 miles.)
In Texas and Florida, federal jurisdiction begins at 9 nautical miles. From the onset, this has made the Gulf of Mexico unique, and recent efforts have been made to extend the boundaries for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to the 9 nautical mile limit – extending state fisheries jurisdiction of the Gulf waters.
Then, the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in December. The Act includes a provision that shifts management of reef fish to 9 nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico. Red snapper is considered a reef fish in federal fisheries management, meaning that states now appear to hold management authority over red snapper in all waters out to 9 nautical miles (extended from the previous 3 nautical miles).
So what does this mean?
It is too soon to tell how the state and federal agencies will handle this jurisdictional change. However, both before and after the Appropriations Act passed, numerous bills have been introduced before Congress to address fisheries jurisdiction and, in some cases, red snapper regulation specifically.
The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program is currently reviewing the pending legislation. Be on the lookout for our updated information soon.