Red snapper industry to undergo changes
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on April 3, 2009 1:46 PM
Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.
Take the Red Snapper fishery for example.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to request an interim rule for red snapper that would close the fishery in federal waters for both commercial and recreational fishermen for 180 days.
If approved, the reprieve will take effect in late June.
The action is the result of several studies that show the Red Snapper population is being fished at nearly nine times the sustainable rate.
The South Atlantic Fisheries Council decided to ask for a closure after a 7-6 vote at a recent meeting. Several fishermen voiced their disapproval at a series of public hearings that took place in each state from North Carolina to Florida.
Some even questioned the council's stock assessment which was completed in the fall of 2008.
"There is not a tougher decision than closing a fishery," said Council chairman Duane Harris. "We've delayed this vote until now, but the law requires that we have measures in place to address overfishing by this July."
The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires the Council to develop regulations to end overfishing within one year of notification. As a result, the Council began preparing Amendment 17 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan that includes measures to end overfishing and establish a rebuilding plan for red snapper.
As a result, the Council began preparing Amendment 17 to the Snapper Grouper Management Plan that includes measures to end overfishing and establish a rebuilding plan for Red Snapper. However, the amendment is currently under development and is not expected to be implemented by the July deadline.
This is not the first time that the snapper fishery has been closed or modified.
In 1983, a 12-inch size limit was established for red snapper. The size limit was increased to 20 inches in 1991 and a recreational bag limit of two fish was implemented. These regulations led to many more fish being released by the recreational sector and consequently a skyrocketing martality rate.
Release mortality rates are estimated at 40 percent for the recreational sector and 90 percent commercially.
"The vote on the interim rule tells what a tough decision this is for the Council," said Harris. "But because of the law, it's a decision we had to make."
In order to eliminate the overfishing and allow the population replenish itself, the council says that the total number of removals -- landings and dead discards -- will have to be cut by 88 percent.
The amendment also includes options for a red snapper monitoring program.
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