Atlantic Red Snapper Fishing May Open–Briefly

It may be short and confusing, but the “breaking news” is that the Atlantic red snapper fishery may be opened for a number of three-day weekends, starting in a month or two.

The likely mini-opening came out in meetings of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Many anglers reacted that while an opening is welcome, the plan being discussed falls far short of a year-around fishery that the community deserves. The long federally imposed closure, based on extremely controversial data, has caused many millions of socio-economic losses. (See June FS Openers column.)

Click for more from the Council meetings.

Report from Federal Council Meetings

During the Snapper-Grouper committee meetings of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in Orlando, several plans were approved tentatively. The SAFMC oversees fishing regulations in federal waters of the Atlantic off North Carolina to Florida (starting 3 nautical miles off Florida). Keep in mind, however, that the actions must be approved by the 13 voting members of the full council and even then they’re subject to review due to NOAA approval authority.

Atlantic red snapper, which have been closed to all fishing for 2 1/2 years despite growing evidence that the species is healthy, approved the following emergency motion: “Initiate an emergency rule to provide for the recreational allocation for red snapper to be landed on three-day weekends, the number of which would be determined by the National Marine Fishery Service. The commercial portion of the allocation would be landed under a 100-pound gutted-weight trip limit.”

This was further clarified by the passing of a defining: “ACL (Annual Catch Limit) for red snapper would be set at 13,067 fish; weekends would consist of Friday, Saturday and Sunday; NMFS would strive to open the season as soon as possible; NMFS would be able to modify the opening dates subject to weather conditions; recreational bag limit would be one per person per day with no size limit; the commercial fishing would be open in seven-day mini-season increments subject to the remaining quota; there would be no size limit for the commercial sector.”

According to Roy Crabtree, the Southeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, the emergency rule should go into effect by late August or early September. The emergency ruling extends to six months or until the 13,067 red snapper have been caught and can be renewed based on data gathered in the interim.

Separate from the emergency rule opening, the S/G committee voted in favor of a permanent plan to allow fishing for red snapper on an ongoing basis through a tag system to be administered by NMFS. The tag would be subject to commercial/recreational allocation and would be distributed through a lottery system.

If the latter motion is adopted as an amendment to the S/G regulations, it would supplant the emergency rule. Many factors need to be considered, such as discouraging “culling” of fish that can result in smaller red snapper discarded when larger ones are caught, monitoring requirements, setting up a fair lottery, if the tag is transferable, etc. The ACL of 13,067 was determined by estimasting dead discards between the 2010-11 totals and projections for 2012. Many of those present felt that that estimated catch total would be reached quickly and any emergency season could be very short.

A presentation was made to the S/G committee to add 12 new Marine Protected Areas (no-fishing zones) to the existing eight MPAs already in existence in the South Atlantic for the purpose of protecting speckled hind and warsaw grouper in deeper waters. A motion was passed to obtain alternatives to the 12 new zones and a “reconfiguration” for the present eight zones. The committee acknowledged that they have no useful data from its science committee about the status of speckled hind and warsaw grouper.

Florida’s FWC Chair Kathy Barco, sitting in on the SAFMC committee meeting, asked what goals or science models were in place regarding expectations from the zones. The blunt response from S/G Committee Chair Mac Currin was that there is no science or any goals. Furthermore, the impact on other species in the proposed zones is unknown along with no answers concerning the socio-economic impact to anglers if barred to catch species other than speckled hind and warsaw grouper in the zones.

One observer remarked, “So now we’re going to site zones on the basis that they might do some good? An unbelievably reckless precedent.” Another joked that reconfiguration is fed speak for increasing the size of present no-fishing zones. Several of the S/G committee members agreed that it would be wise to first find out if the existing zones are at all effective before clamoring for more.

Again, keep in mind that all actions on a Council level are subject to review by the NMFS (basically meaning Crabtree).

–Doug Kelly/FS staff

  • john

    Or I could just fish my super secret spots in state waters(wink wink) and keep my two per person year round.

  • Nick Odom

    this is absolutely ridiculous. No size limits? shows just how flipping dumb NMFS is. To take a fish that has not had the opportunity to breed is outrageously reckless and a pretty lousy attempt to quite down the fishermen's voice.

    I say the state opts out like Louisiana and says we want all or nothing and until we get a year round season we are going to fight this tooth and nail.

    I also would put money on it that NMFS is going to SELL the lottery drawings in another piss poor attempt to make money where it shouldnt be made. What a freaking JOKE!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris

    What the hell is this? I guess next they will let me keep snapper on Mondays only. They need to get it straight and open a season!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rob Harris

    So now we are going to define fair access by the luck of the draw? Since it's a form of gambling, does that mean that you must be 18 to play?

    Tags? I guess we are still stuck with CCA and George Gieger's fish tag plan.

    Sad to see Americans having so much taken from them to the benefit of a few. I guess Walmart will get the contract on the tags too.


  • Karl Wickstrom

    We may have the amazing situation whereby commercials can take red snaper while non-commercials may not take even one.

    At that point, commercials could catch and eat Monday-through-Thursday red snappers but family folks could not.

  • Karl Wickstrom

    Since the '92 regs for a 2-fish bag and 20-in. minimum have done so incredibly well, it would be logical and smooth to just keep them except to cut it, if they must, to one-fish bag, and no beyond bag limit takes.

    These very confusing changes like suddenly having no size limit simply destroy public acceptance and respect for the law.

  • Dan

    it would be a waste to keep em under 20 anyway… IDIOTS!

  • Randy

    I personally don't mind having a "season" for Red Snapper as long as it is reasonable. I also don't mind having the season closed during known spawning periods for the fish (snapper and grouper) as this is just good conservation policy. What bothers me is the constant and continuous false information that these people are spewing forth about Red Snapper Stocks and it seems it is simply a ploy to keep people from fishing over reefs and wrecks. Its an environmental activist agenda that really has no place here. The fishing community, for the most part, is very respectful and responsible towards our resources. It does however seem that NOAA and SAFMC are not respectful to us.

  • Brachan wright

    Just my personal opinion why not remain 1 per person per day year round fishing for grouper always seems to yield a few dead snapper anyways as hey are to aggressive of course we do everything in our power to get them back down in the best shape possible but there will always be those few that just wont make it unfortunately the sharks get to eat but we dont what's the difference I wish those NOAA guys would take one trip with menill show them just how endangered they are 4 guys can go through a flat of sardines in a matter of a couple hours they are more of a nuesence than an endangered species just my 2 cents.

    Brachan wright ponce inlet florida

  • earnest

    Just another way to throw us a bone keep us quit for a few more years.

  • john

    Forgive me but i have fought for my country and i'm not allowed to take a fish home. Guess snapper blood is worth more than american blood

  • Mark Drury

    reds have gotten so plentiful on my grouper drops at our live bottom areas in Georgia as to render them almost unfishable for scamp/gags. My arms at 50 get a wee bit weary after 15 or 20, 5′ to 15′lb reds to catch ONE grouper. The laws are ridicules

  • Anotherday

    As many fishermen as there are, It seems that we should sit in the governers office until they see how flawed the data is and tell the feds to get lost. The only reason I see this would not work is that fishermen work for a living. Just like the rest of government, vote out the ones behind these councils in 2016! Do your homework! The NRA fights gun restrictions. Perhaps its time for the NPA (National Pole Association), to fight these stupid conservation efforts when they dont know what is down there to begin with.