ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) - Alabama anglers packed Orange Beach's Hilton Garden Inn to discuss the option of moving to regional management of the red snapper season on Jan. 16.
Dr. Bob Shipp is a committee chairman on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, but Wednesday night he was just like any angler.
Frustrated with the current situation, Shipp was trying to reach out to his fellow fisherman about the benefits of regional management.
"It's an irony. It's a paradox," Shipp said. "Because the stocks are so healthy and the fish are so big, we have this shortened season, which is crazy. It's ludicrous. Most council members feel that way too, but the way the law is written that's what we're forced to do. And until the law is changed, we're stuck with this."
In Shipp's eyes, regional management might make a slight difference, as it could tailor specific needs to each area.
He said the main issue is red snapper is a federally managed fish. They said it's over-fished, and the season dwindles much to the dismay of the anglers.
It has become widely accepted that this snapper season will be the shortest ever, 27 days . Last year, anglers had 40.
In the meeting, many had their voices heard.
"I bought up here to fish, to fish like you guys did. But now I can't fish like that because they're going to take it away from us. I mean, how can they can say we've overfished it?" said one angler.
"Do we not ever get a sample in our area of how many snapper we've actually got here?" said another.
Folks in Orange Beach said red snapper season isn't just for fun or a hobby, it's part of the way they make a living. So if you shorten the season, you take away their livelihood.
"Losing days has to stop," said charter boat captain Ben Fairey. "It is impossible to really run a business with that few days, so we have to really look at this issue and what we're going to do."
Ben Fairey captains the Necessity charter fishing boat.
He isn't sold on regional management just yet, and feels that a one fish per day limit could be the solution in Alabama. He said that'd bring us back to about a 40-day season.
But he said he knows this isn't the end for his business or a seafood-driven economy on the Gulf Coast.
"We've made it through hurricanes and oil spills, this fishing community is very resilient," Fairey said. "It's a great group of people- men and women, and families that have been here for generations. We're going to make it."
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