'Recently discovered' data may allow red snapper fishery to open

I wanted to make you aware of some good news: it’s likely the red snapper fishery in the South Atlantic will open this year.

There’s an emergency action to open the red snapper fishery on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s agenda for its upcoming meeting on September 11-15 in Charleston, SC. The SAFMC’s preferred catch limit would allow recreational fishermen to land 29,656 fish and commercial to land 124,815 lb.

The emergency action projects an October 6th fishery opening date. Under the preferred catch limit alternative, the recreational season is projected to last six to twelve days and the commercial season year-round based on a 75 lb. trip limit.

Click here for the emergency action document.

Also, on the SAFMC’s agenda is Snapper-Grouper Amendment 43, which would establish red snapper annual catch limits starting in 2018. Click here for the amendment.

It’s important to let the SAFMC know you support catch limit Alternative 5 for both the emergency action and Amendment 43, which is the largest catch limit under consideration.

Please click here to submit your comment.

How did we get to this point when as late as March the SAFMC still had an action under consideration to potentially close more large areas of bottom to fishing to “protect” red snapper and in June the SAFMC announced that red snapper discards exceeded the acceptable biological limit and there would be no 2017 season?

Incredibly, “recently discovered and unforeseen data” is the answer according to the emergency action.

An index from a long-term fishery independent survey was “discovered” that confirmed what most fishermen were seeing on the water: the red snapper population has exploded, with the population in 2016 three times higher than in 1990. And this population explosion occurred despite the limited red snapper fishing seasons from 2012 to 2014 and the dead discards since the fishery was closed in 2010.

Click here to see the index.

It’s sad that fishermen and the coastal economy have paid the price for the very poor data effort, projections and estimates that have prevented this fishery from opening years ago. Our fishery managers have got to do much better.

I hope this information is helpful.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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