Regulators may open federal waters, red snapper


Federal waters off Destin may open in the next couple of weeks.

Lt. Col. Louie Roberson, regional director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the more than 150 gathered at the Destin City Hall Annex Tuesday night that samples of fish have been sent for testing and if all goes well, federal waters off Destin could reopen soon.

Federal waters, past nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico, have been closed for several weeks due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, limiting the Destin charter boats to fish only in state waters.

“This is a moving target and things are changing daily. But all state waters are now open,” Roberson said, noting that state waters off Pensacola are back in business.

The reopening of federal waters depends on the testing of the fish that have been sent to the labs. Roberson said if they get an “all clear,” federal waters should open in seven to 10 days.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “I’m not guaranteeing it.”

The other glimmer of hope Roberson passed on Tuesday was a possibility of a late second season for red snapper.

“We didn’t come anywhere close to our limits,” he said, referring to the total allowable catch.

With only 54 days of red snapper fishing, boats involved in the Vessel of Opportunity program and elsewhere were not able to fish at all.

Roberson said they are looking at reopening the fishery in late September or early October.

Both of these topics will discussed at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in Pensacola Aug. 16-20.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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