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"Federal court rules against challenge to red snapper quotas

By Sean Ellis
Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 3:31 p.m.

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 3:31 p.m.

A federal judge in New Orleans on Tuesday rejected a challenge to the Gulf Council's red snapper fishing quotas for the next three years.

The plaintiffs challenged the legality of Amendment 40 to the Gulf Council's Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan and the associated rule which sets fishing quotas and seasons for 2015-17.

The plaintiffs argued that under the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Gulf Council is prohibited from regulating charter fishing separately from recreational fishing. Also, that the Gulf Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service did not "assess, specify and analyze" the economic and social effects of Amendment 40, that the amendment makes an unfair and inequitable allocation of fishing resources and the Council improperly delegated authority to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Amendment 40 defines the partitioning of the recreational sector. All four arguments were struck down.

Under Amendment 40, there are sub-quotas for recreational fishing which the plaintiffs argued was against the law. However, under the act, the Gulf Council is granted authority to determine the most efficient management of the recreational sector.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo found that the National Marine Fisheries Service's smaller quotas for recreational fishermen is offset by opportunities to fish in state waters while federal waters are closed to them due to lengthy state seasons and that sector separation allows for better management of the fishery because the National Marine Fisheries Service used the Gulf Council's formulas to determine quotas, the court found, the council had not delegated authority to the fisheries service," Milazzo ruled.

"Accordingly, this Court cannot find that the decision to allocate fish between the federal for-hire component and the private angling component was arbitrary and capricious in this regard, as the Council has provided a rational justification for its decision," Milazzo wrote in a 23-page decision.

The 2015 red snapper season begins Friday with state boundaries temporarily extended....."

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