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John Rutherford Gets the Red Snapper Act to the House Floor

Last week, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., got his “Red Snapper Act” through a key committee on Capitol Hill.

Rutherford first introduced the bill at the end of last year with more than a dozen co-sponsors being led by then U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. The bill “would prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from implementing area closures in the South Atlantic until the South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count study is complete and the findings are integrated into the fishery’s stock assessment.” Last week, Rutherford reintroduced the bill.

Rutherford’s office explained why the congressman offered the proposal.

“Recreational fishing in Florida is a major economic driver that produced $9.2 billion in economic output and supported 88,501 jobs in 2020. Over the last 10 years, the South Atlantic fishing community has worked hard to rebuild the red snapper stock. However, due to a lack of good data, seasons remain short and fail to reflect the real number of red snapper in the region. To fix this, Congress appropriated $5.1 million over the last three years to fund the South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count, which will deliver reliable data on abundance, genomics, and mortality and improve access to red snapper fishing for anglers,” Rutherford’s office noted. “Earlier this year, NOAA proposed closures for all bottom fishing in the South Atlantic in an effort to decrease the red snapper caught outside of the two-day recreational season. While the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council ultimately rejected NOAA’s proposal, the threat of future closures persists. The Red Snapper Act would prevent NOAA from making future sweeping management decisions until the ongoing South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count is complete.”

Rutherford weighed in on the bill when he brought it back over the summer.

“Over the last ten years, the South Atlantic fishing community has worked hard to rebuild the red snapper stock, and their efforts have worked! Anglers tell me they see more red snapper off the coast of Northeast Florida than they have ever seen,” said Rutherford. “NOAA may believe the population is overfished, but widespread bottom closures that threaten Florida’s fishing economy are not the answer. My Red Snapper Act stops NOAA from making draconian closures, and instead forces them to use better data to evaluate the red snapper population in the South Atlantic. Florida’s anglers deserve dependable access to red snapper fishing.”

The congressman’s office highlighted how the bill would help the Sunshine State.

“Last year, NOAA proposed closures for bottom fishing in the South Atlantic to decrease the discard rate of red snapper caught outside of the two-day recreational season. While the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council ultimately rejected NOAA’s proposal, the threat of future closures persists. The Red Snapper Act would prevent NOAA from making future sweeping management decisions until the ongoing South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count is complete and the new information can be integrated into stock assessments,” Rutherford’s office noted. “America’s 52.4 million anglers create $148 billion in economic output, support 945,500 jobs, and contribute $1.8 billion toward conservation. Florida alone adds $13.9 billion to our national economy – higher than any other state – through the manufacturing and sale of fishing equipment and gear, hotel lodging, restaurants, charter boat trips. and more. In Florida’s 5th Congressional District, the recreational fishing industry supports nearly 4,500 local jobs.”

Several members of the House are backing the bill, including Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn and Michael Waltz. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the Center for Sportfishing Policy are also backing the proposal.

Last week, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill on a 21-18 vote.

“The Red Snapper Act will address longstanding management concerns held by thousands of anglers across Florida and the South Atlantic and will help support our nation’s local economies,” said Rutherford. “In Florida’s 5th Congressional District alone, the recreational fishing industry supports nearly 4,500 local jobs. Florida’s anglers deserve dependable access to red snapper fishing. I am grateful to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, committee members, cosponsors, and advocates for their role in moving this legislation forward.”

“The Red Snapper Act is key in ensuring that the best science is used to inform South Atlantic snapper-grouper management, rather than rushing into hasty, job-killing decisions,” said ASA Southeast Fisheries Policy Director Martha Guyas. “Widespread closures are not needed and would be catastrophic to Florida’s nearly $14 billion recreational fishing industry.”

Still, while Rutherford has gotten his bill to the House floor, so far, there is no companion measure in the U.S. Senate.

In March 2021, the beginning of the Great Red Snapper Count in the South Atlantic, Murphy and Rutherford secured $3.3 million for a 30-month study that will help better understand the true stock of red snapper in the South Atlantic.

Author

  • Kevin Derby

    Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is a contributing writer for Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Derek Brown

    November 10, 2023 at 6:44 pm

    Ok. Last year university of Florida paid me $10,000 to take two “scientists” for a three day assessment. They had their own coordinates from 12-60 mile offshore. Each spot an ROV was deployed looking for snapper. ALL IN BARREN SANDY SPOTS! Snapper/grouper like reefs and habitats. Freakin IDIOTS that gather data and make the laws. Of course they have their theory and reason for how they conduct science. Yeah right Chief..believe what you say. But you can’t beat experience which is us who have been on/in the water for too many years.

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