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Home > Resources & Publications > Newsletters & Magazines > Chenier Ecology > 2006 > 11-06

Resources & Publications:  Chenier Ecology

November 2006

According to the Gulf Council, the Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock is overfished. The stock status is influenced not only by direct fishing, but also by red snapper bycatch mortality from shrimping. All making rebuilding red snapper a challenge for fishery managers as competing interests and goals must be balanced.

Additionally, the red snapper rebuilding plan established in 1990 has been revised and lengthened several times in response to new assessments that provided a better understanding of stock biomass and other factors, including shrimp trawl bycatch mortality data. The most recent red snapper stock assessment indicates catch and bycatch levels are likely to jeopardize the success of the latest rebuilding plan, implemented in 2005. The goal is to rebuild the fishery to allow for harvest at maximum sustainable yields by 2032.

One proposed change being considered by the Gulf Council is reducing the total allowable catch (TAC) from 9.12 to 6.5 million pounds. The commercial (51 percent) and recreational (49 percent) quotas of the TAC would remain the same. The proposal would not change the 16 inch recreational size limit or alter the April 21-Oct. 31 season, but might reduce the bag limit to two fish and set the charter captain and crew bag limit at zero. In an effort to reduce waste, the commercial size limit might be reduced to 13 inches.

Also, with the publishing of the final rule for Reef Fish Amendment 18A, all vessels with a valid reef fish permit will be required to have a vessel monitoring system (VMS) onboard.

Another proposal being considered is establishing a target reduction of red snapper bycatch in shrimp trawls at 50 percent. One serious problem with reducing snapper bycatch in trawls is the natural behavior of red snapper. Underwater video has shown red snappers in trawls swimming along inside the net, hugging tightly to the webbing, even as escape openings are clearly available. The fish’s natural instinct is to seek the protection of structure, in this case inside the trawl. They swim with the trawl until exhausted and then end up with the catch.

Other alternatives such as seasonal closures, marine protected areas or area closures also may become a reality.

Yet another upcoming change to red snapper is the implementation of individual fishing quotas (IFQ) to begin in January 2007. Each fisherman with a valid red snapper endorsed reef fish permit would be allocated a portion of the commercial quota, based on historical landings. This would eliminate the need for seasonal harvest and would reduce economic hardship associated with seasonal and derby fishing. Read the entire history of red snapper management at: www.seagrantfish.lsu.edu/pdfs/lagniappe/2000/10-02-2000.pdf

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