ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) — A leader in Alabama's charter fishing business said Thursday that new federal limits on red snapper will hurt the state's struggling recreational industry.
The president of the Orange Beach Fishing Association, Tom Steber, said there's a chance some anglers won't even bother to fish after regulators cut the season for the prized fish from 11 to nine days.
A few days of bad weather at the start of hurricane season could wipe out the season, he said, and tourists from the Midwest and other regions who travel to Alabama's coast to fish may not be willing to take the risk.
"It's pretty insane," said Steber.
The season that starts June 1 will last only nine days this year based on a decision announced Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The shortened season doesn't affect commercial operations.
Charter captains contend the government is making decisions based on flawed statistics that indicate a reduced number of red snapper in Gulf waters. Steber said some studies have found plentiful snapper off Alabama's coast.
"The data is the problem," he said. "There are so many snapper down there you can't catch anything else, and the government says they're not there."
Andy Strelcheck, a fishery biologist with NOAA, said there are more snapper in Gulf waters than in the past because of a rebuilding program that began about eight years ago, but the population still hasn't rebounded sufficiently to lift restrictions under a management plan set to expire in 2032.
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