As I was getting ready to wrap up this issue late Tuesday afternoon, I got a text from Capt. Ralph Allen: “If you haven’t printed yet, you might want to get the just-announced lane snapper closure in there.”
Then I went online and found this:
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Recreational and Commercial Harvest of Lane Snapper in Federal Waters of the Gulf of Mexico Will Close on December 13, 2019
Recreational and commercial harvest of lane snapper in federal waters will close at 12:01 a.m. (local time) on December 13, 2019. Recreational and commercial harvest will reopen at 12:01 a.m. (local time) on January 1, 2020.
WHY THIS CLOSURE IS HAPPENING:
The 2019 stock annual catch limit is 301,000 pounds. Updated landings data indicate that stock annual catch limit has been reached.
In 2018, the stock annual catch limit was exceeded. In accordance with the regulations, if the stock annual catch limit is exceeded one year, then during the following fishing year, if the sum of commercial and recreational landings reaches or is projected to reach the stock annual catch limit, NOAA Fisheries must close the recreational and commercial sectors for the remainder of that fishing year.
As a result, recreational and commercial harvest for lane snapper will close in federal waters at 12:01 am (local time) on December 13, 2019, and will remain closed until 12:01 a.m. (local time) on January 1, 2020. This closure is necessary to protect the lane snapper population.
DURING THE CLOSURE:
No recreational or commercial fisherman may fish for or keep lane snapper after 12:01 a.m. (local time) on December 13, 2019. The closure applies in both state and federal waters for vessels that have a valid Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fish permit. During the closure, the bag and possession limits for lane snapper in or from federal waters of the Gulf are zero.
Sale or purchase of any harvested lane snapper in or from federal waters is prohibited. The prohibition on sale or purchase does not apply to trade in lane snapper that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold before 12:01 a.m., (local time) December 13, 2019, and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor.
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So, a two-week closure is announced three days before it starts, over the holiday season, and it’s needed to save the lane snapper. Remember that during the closure, it will be illegal to possess lane snapper in federal waters (more than 9 miles offshore). If you want lanes, stick to state waters or catch them on your way back in instead of on the way out.
Seriously, this is getting stupid. How did we sneak up on our quota with no warning? Does NOAA really believe that it’s possible to get the word out to everyone who fishes the Gulf in three days? Does anyone really believe that stopping fishing for a whole two weeks is going to make any measurable difference in the number of lane snapper that are out there?
I am a stickler for following game and fish rules and regulations — to the point that some people don’t want to fish with me because I give them a hard time about their habit of trying to flex the rules further than I am comfortable with. But this time, I’m about a half-inch from ignoring a stupid rule. (I won’t, because I’ll be the one who gets caught and cited. Probably the only one on the whole Gulf coast.)
This system of “accountability measures” that we have has gotten out of hand, mandating closures on short notice and often for ridiculously long periods of time. Now it’s going to make thousands of otherwise law-abiding anglers into poachers simply because they didn’t find out about the closure. That’s not fair to us.
We deserve better. Right now, I’m not sure what better looks like, but what we have is unacceptable.
Anyway, if you want to get timely notice of the random closures, you can sign up for text message alerts on your phone. Text GULFRECFISH to 888777. My thanks to Capt. Ralph for being on the ball.
Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.