MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A multi-million dollar industry on the Gulf Coast is in danger of extinction. Charter fishermen who rely on red snapper will see a season of just 27 days in 2013 to make ends meet. That's prompting action.
27 DAYS OF RED SNAPPER
Federal regulations have reeled in red snapper season to an all-time low, to just 27 days.
Sonny Middleton lamented, "They're trying to govern something they know nothing about."
Middleton, owner of Dog River Marina, told FOX10 a short red snapper season is a punch in the gut to those who rely on them for a living.
"These guys can't make it fishing 27 days. These guys got big investments in their boats, we work on their boats, we need their business, they can't survive," Middleton said. "Not on 27 days."
SCIENCE BEHIND THE QUOTAS
Supporters of the low quotas said the short seasons are needed for the long-lived red snapper to fully rebound from over fishing in years past.
Alabama Congressman Jo Bonner said a research trip he took last fall made him question the science.
"We were actually going out to fish for trigger fish," Bonner told us. "We caught two triggers because the red snapper were eating the bait before we could even find the triggers."
GULF FISHERIES FAIRNESS ACT
After seeing and hearing the frustrations with the federal limits, Congressman Bonner has introduced a bill called the Gulf Fisheries Fairness Act. Essentially, it would take control from federal agencies and give it to the state.
"Those management decisions would include everything from the number of days and length of season, to the number of fish, to the size of fish. It would address all of that," Bonner said.
The bill would also expand Alabama's state waters to at least 9 miles out from the current 3 miles, and includes all reef fish. Those are the fish that tend to live in a small home territory like snapper, amberjack, and triggerfish.
"If we expanded it to nine miles, or 20 fathoms, Alabama would have an abundance of snapper," Bonner told us.
COMPETING BILLS; COMPETING VIEWS
Representative Bonner's bill won't have an easy go of it though. Competing bills from other states could muddy the waters.
The competing bills will also slow the legislation down, so there's almost no chance it would have any impact on this season. Anglers will have to wait and see what lawmakers reel in for the state.
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