UPDATED: Red Snapper count leads to changes from NOAA
Red snapper, delicious, but also heavily fished, is the now the focus of an innovative federal and state collaboration.
In 2018 and 2019, all five Gulf states will manage red snapper fishing for private vessels not just in state waters, but also federal.
NOAA Fisheries has issued Exempted Fishing Permits for each state to set its own private vessel angler season dates, collect landings data, and then close the season if and when its red snapper quota is reached. Here’s what the states have planned for 2018.
Florida has a 40-day combined state/federal season from June 11th to July 20th. Alabama opted for a weekends-only season from June 1st to September 3rd, but is open Independence Day week from June 29th through July 8th. Mississippi opened red snapper season May 25th and keeps it open until Labor Day, but if the catch rate is higher than expected, may close July 9-22 then reopen it. Louisiana opened its season May 25th and will close when the quota is reached.
Texas opened in federal waters June 1st to August 21st or until the quota is reached and will keep its red snapper season in state waters open all year.
A Red Snapper Count in the works
Increasingly vocal pushback, especially from recreational anglers, has led to the award of
an in-depth, $12-million research initiative to accurately determine the abundance of red snapper in U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico with a red snapper count.
An independent review panel convened by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium has picked a team of 21 scientists from universities in all five Gulf states. Their research will be coordinated by Greg Stunz, Marine Biology Professor at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and a voting member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
The project has enthusiastic support from the person on top of the federal fisheries management pyramid, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. It is also supported by Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. Shelby said he hoped an accurate red snapper count in the Gulf could be determined “once and for all.”
Anglers will tag red snappers and report numbers and locations of previously-tagged snappers that they catch. Commercial fishing vessels will host observers to count fish brought aboard and their locations. Other on-the-water research tools will include remote-operated vehicles, camera sleds, scuba divers, and acoustics.
By Bill AuCoin, Southern Boating February 2018, Updated July 2018
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