Attention Gulf Anglers!

Gulf Red Snapper

Snapper season is right around the corner. So it is time to sign up for or renew your participation in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey if you plan to fish from a private vessel for the following reef species in the Gulf this year: red and vermilion snapper; gag, red, and black grouper; greater amberjack, lesser amberjack; banded rudderfish; almaco jack; and gray triggerfish.

To renew online, visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

If you are not a Gulf reef fish angler and don’t plan on fishing for these reef species in the Gulf this year, please do not renew your participation in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. By only sampling anglers who plan on fishing for those species, Florida is improving recreational data collection. Contact Marine@MyFWC.com with any questions.

Just a reminder – renewing the Gulf Reef Fish Survey does not renew your fishing license, so if needed, remember to renew that as well!

Also, the FWC is meeting this week to establish the state season dates. As yet, the federal season dates have not been set. It is proposed and will be discussed that to maintain fishing opportunities for red snapper while approximating last year’s season structure, the red snapper season would be open on Saturdays and Sundays starting the first Saturday in May. The season would then be open each day starting the Saturday before Memorial Day through the Sunday following July 4, then reopen for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in September and October, plus Labor Day. If October 31 falls on a Saturday, the last day of harvest will be Sunday, November 1.

In other news in the ongoing red snapper saga, it appears the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will make at least one more attempt at regional management of the red snapper fishery.

Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi got approval from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to start the amendment process for state management of the red snapper fishery off the respective states out to 200 nautical miles.

At the recent Gulf Council meeting in Birmingham, three states petitioned the council to manage the fishery off their respective coasts out to 200 nautical miles, based on historical landings.

The council approved motions by Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi by 11-5 votes to eventually shift red snapper management to those states.

The Gulf Council had previously attempted to shift management of the red snapper fishery to the five Gulf States, but after many changes, the amendment strayed so far from the original intent that it was abandoned.

A recent court’s ruling will affect the red snapper quotas as well. The commercial reef fish anglers sued NOAA Fisheries after the red snapper allocations for the commercial and recreational sectors were changed in Amendment 28. Previously, the commercial sector received about 51 percent of the allocation, while the recreational sector got 49 percent. Amendment 28 changed the allocation to 51.5 percent recreational and 48.5 percent commercial.

The judge vacated the amendment on the basis that it violated National Standard 4 (management measures must be fair and equitable). Thus, the red snapper allocations will revert to the previous ratio of 49 percent recreational and 51 percent commercial. The 2017 recreational red snapper quota is projected to be about 5.28 million pounds with a little more than 3 million pounds going to the private recreational anglers. However, because the majority of red snapper are now caught in state waters, the federal season is expected to be open for less than a week.

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