The recreational Red Snapper season shrank to a record of nine days this past year. Federal fisheries managers point to data showing recreational anglers, who are limited to keeping no more than two red snapper per day, are catching and keeping increasingly larger snapper and reaching their annual poundage quota quicker.
Recreational anglers chafe at the data, arguing the surveys used to gauge harvest are seriously flawed and greatly overestimate angler harvest.
Gulf states, especially Louisiana, have begun conducting their own snapper harvest surveys. Their surveys indicate the federal surveys far overestimate recreational angler snapper landings.
Under a plan devised by the five Gulf states – Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas – the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority (GSRSMA) replaces the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council plan for setting quotas. The principal fishery managers from each state would be responsible for approving each state’s red snapper management plan.
The GSRSMA plan specially makes sense because snapper populations are not evenly distributed throughout the Gulf. One quota for the entire Gulf doesn’t make sense. Estimates indicate more than 70 percent of the Gulf’s red snapper are in the area west of the Mississippi River, off of Louisiana and Texas. However, more than 70 percent of the annual recreational harvest of red snapper is taken in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, with most off Florida and Alabama.
“The GSRSMA framework outlines a straight forward process that would allow states to use flexible management approaches to manage red snapper to meet local needs as well as Gulf wide conservation goals,” says a letter announcing the plan and signed by the marine fisheries directors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meets March 30-April 2 in Biloxi, Mississippi where the GSRSMA plan will be officially presented. Don’t expect a slam dunk.