Grijalva Pushes for Data As Administration-Approved Overfishing of Red Snapper Gets Underway – Bishop Ignores Request for Help

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter today to NOAA Fisheries, the Commerce Department’s fisheries management and regulatory agency, pressing for information on why the agency recently extended the red snapper fishing season in the Gulf of Mexico from three days to 42 days – an approach that the agency’s own Federal Register notice admits is potentially perilous for the species. The letter is available at http://bit.ly/2s3MRb9.

Because it is the policy of the Trump administration to ignore Democrats and only “accommodate the requests of chairmen” in responding to congressional correspondence and requests for information, Grijalva sent a letter to Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) on June 15 asking him to cosign today’s information request. Bishop never replied.

The Gulf red snapper season was limited to three days in federal waters earlier this year because of excessive harvest and lengthy state seasons that led to more than 80 percent of the private recreational red snapper quota being caught in state waters last year. The Trump administration reopened the season on June 16 for an additional 39 days even though NOAA Fisheries still has not released its harvest estimate for this year’s original three-day season, which was open from June 1-3.

The June 14 Federal Register notice for the seasonal extension reads in part:

Both the States and the Federal government understand what is at risk with this approach. The stock is still overfished. While the stock is ahead of its rebuilding target, if employed for a short period of time, this approach may delay the ultimate rebuilding of the stock by as many as 6 years. This approach likely could not be continued through time without significantly delaying the rebuilding timeline. Similarly, the approach will necessarily mean that the private recreational sector will substantially exceed its annual catch limit, which was designed to prevent overfishing the stock.

Today’s letter asks NOAA Fisheries for the data used to make these estimates, as well as the data and analyses used to determine that the temporary rule complies with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. That law requires federal fishery managers to set science-based annual catch limits to ensure that overfishing does not occur. The letter also asks for communication among federal and state officials involved in developing the plan for an extended season.

Grijalva writes in part:

In order to make these statements, [NOAA Fisheries] must have conducted an analysis using available data and landings projections to determine the potential impacts of the proposed plan on the stock, and the likelihood that the plan would result in annual catch limit (ACL) overages or overfishing. However, no such analysis is included or cited in the Federal Register notice. An independent analysis suggests that the plan could result in private boat anglers catching as much as 7.4 million pounds more red snapper this year than they are currently allowed under regulations established by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

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