Atlantic Red Snapper Season Coming Your Way?
South Atlantic Council Considers Opening Red Snapper - possibly as soon as this year!
On September 11th, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) will discuss red snapper management options during their meeting (Charleston, SC). Included in those options are potential plans to open a limited season in 2018. The SAFMC will also discuss requesting that NOAA open a short season later in 2017 via an emergency order.
This represents quite a shift in management philosophy. Consider that Atlantic Red Snapper (ARS) was initially closed in 2010 because it was determined at that time that it was “currently overfished and experiencing overfishing.”
Discussions at that time (and periodically since) have included the possibility of actually closing areas to fishing for ANY bottom fish, to avoid anglers accidentally killing ARS while targeting other fish.
So why the change?
NOAA estimates of the ARS population suggest that it is still recovering. However, there are nearly unanimous reports from recreational anglers that the population has exploded. Many anglers proclaim that they can’t target any other species in some areas because the ARS numbers are so dense that they can’t get bait past them. This cycle has gone on for a few years, leading to a lot of discomfort, mistrust, and general anxiety over this fishery from all sides - anglers, managers, and biologists.
But the big picture here – the big crisis AND opportunity – lies in data collection. And accurate data on ARS is not exactly easy to come by. Current data collection methods used by federal fisheries managers make it particularly difficult to understand the population dynamics of fisheries where there is no allowed harvest. In essence, fishery managers are sometimes forced to try to manage a species with insufficient data.
SGF believes that the SAFMC is truly trying to understand a very complex and difficult situation, and is working towards a solution that will allow some kind of access/harvest while also protecting the future of the species.
Because of our successes with the iAngler program in Florida, we also believe there is a way to improve data collection along the way, ensuring SAFMC biologists and managers have the best possible understanding of the fishery.
SGF encourages all anglers to tune in to this issue, and consider making your voice heard at the Sept. 11 meeting in Charleston. SGF will be there to assist the SAFMC in any way we can, and we anticipate a very lively discussion. For now, you can delve into more background on the ARS fishery and a few other goings on by reading the latest SAFMC newsletter.
Interested in having a say but can't attend? Here's where you can submit comments regarding Atlantic Red Snapper. And here's where you can preview all of the meeting docs related to the upcoming SAFMC meeting.
By the way, the inset box below contains ‘best practice’ suggestions. This was taken directly from the SAFMC newsletter linked above, and is good info for all deep water anglers. The info was gathered by SAFMC staff from a recent workshop on the subject as well as other sources.