New Pilot Program Could Change Red Snapper Regulations

BAY COUNTY, Fla. - The fight between fishermen and the federal government, over control of fishing regulations in federal waters is a tale as old as time.

Now, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is recommending the Marine Fisheries Service to approve a pilot program, which allow the states to take over control.

Owner of Capt. Bob Zales Charters, Bob Zales II, explained that this will allow the Gulf states to issue Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP's).

"Which would allow them to take over fishing for red snapper from state waters all the way out to 200 miles. Depends on the state, some are wanting to takeover everybody, private, rec, charter for hire," he said.

But Zales said this proposal would only affect private recreational fishermen in Florida.

That includes state-licensed fisherman, but not those who are federally permitted.
But many private local fishermen are concerned that the State's EFP would only give them 24 days to fish for red snapper.
"The state would then take those days and divide them up so you would have 12 days from Gulf County to Escambia County, which is here in the Panhandle, you would have another 12 days from Franklin County to Monroe County," Zales said.

But he said the good news is he expects the federal permits to include at least 50 days of red snapper fishing this year.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioners will discuss the EFP's during their meetings this week in Tallahassee.

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