Red snapper catches reported as outstanding, stock assessment needed now

After two of the three weekends of the red snapper recreational mini-season, outstanding catches have been reported throughout the South Atlantic region.

Here are some of the news reports:

Daytona Beach News-Journal: “A packed party boat pulled up to the Critter Fleet dock Friday afternoon, unloading dozens of grinning fishermen and pairing them with their prized catch of the day — stringer after stringer of big, red snapper… A parade of private boats and charter boats motored out of Ponce Inlet Friday, returning in the afternoon with scores of red snapper.”
Click here for the article.

Charleston Post & Courier: “The halfway point of the mini-season in which fishermen can keep American red snappers has passed, and from all indications it has been extremely successful… ‘From my viewpoint and from everyone I have talked to up and down the coast, from what I understand red snapper were caught real, real well this past weekend,’ said Capt. Mark Brown of the Teaser 2, who recently was appointed to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council.”
Click here for the article.

Florida Today: “For the second time in four years, anglers were able to tap into the Space Coast's red snapper fishing mini-season last weekend… Jeff Sauer and his son Trey, 4, fished with friend Jon Godwin out of Sebastian Inlet on Saturday, July 12…’We caught our limit of snapper, about five- to seven-pounders,’ Sauer said. ‘And we released a bunch more.’…’There was no shortage of fish and no shortage of smiles.’"
Click here for the article.

This Friday and Saturday, July 25-26, will be the last weekend of the mini-season. The recreational catch limit is 22,576 fish. There is no size limit.

The commercial mini-season opened July 14th with a catch limit of 50,994 lbs. gutted weight and a 75 lbs. gutted weight trip limit. There is no size limit.

The abundance of red snapper reported during this mini-season mirrors what fishermen have been telling the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council since the fishery was effectively closed four years ago.

Fishermen and affected coastal businesses have suffered great economic losses because of the closure and have been asking for a red snapper stock assessment year after year. One is now scheduled to be presented to the SAFMC next summer.

US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) in a recent op-ed in the Daytona Beach News-Journal said this about the red snapper closure:

“As the Department of Commerce has been severely restricting or closing the federal season since 2010, fishermen out on the water have been catching red snapper and forced to throw them back.

None of this had to happen. The Department of Commerce does not have complete or updated data to justify the limited season. The last benchmark stock assessment was conducted in 2010, and the next assessment for the fishery was scheduled for 2013, but was later delayed to 2014.

While I appreciate the economic benefits this [mini]season will bring to the communities along the South Atlantic, I believe this season could have been even longer if our fisheries were managed based on reliable, real-time data.”

Click here for the op-ed.

Sen. Rubio is correct, particularly about the need for better and more timely fishery management data.

The red snapper stock assessment process will begin next month with a data workshop in Charleston. CFSF board member Sonny Davis will be a participant in the workshop. The assessment should be conducted as expeditiously as possible.

It’s our hope that the red snapper assessment verifies what fishermen are seeing out on the water and results in restoring meaningful annual catch limits to both recreational and commercial fishermen.

Respectfully,

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Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Sustainablefishing.org

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