Gulf anglers have experienced the benefits of state management for red snapper over the last three years, enjoying longer and more consistent seasons. Now, a recent decision by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) could put the future of state management in jeopardy.
The Gulf Council needs to hear from you during its meeting this week about the importance of staying the course and maintaining reasonable fishing access.
Please follow the instructions below to call in during the meeting’s public comment period on Wednesday, April 14, from 2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Eastern).
Each speaker will need to join the meeting audio by dialing (833) 970-2435 and providing the conference ID (65 694 38). Once the chairman begins public testimony, you will be instructed to press *1 to indicate your desire to speak. Speakers will be put in queue and will be called upon by an operator in the order they enter the queue. The operator will let you know when it’s your turn to speak and you will have three minutes to comment.
Talking points for the Gulf Council Public Comment Period – April 14, 2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Eastern)
- State your name, something about yourself and why you care about the red snapper fishery.
- State management is working and should continue. The seasons are longer and more consistent and they can be adjusted according to the weather, angler desire and other factors.
- I encourage the Council to take No Action on calibrating state recreational data collection systems with federal data. The Council should wait until ALL of the data – the Great Red Snapper Count, and federal and state recreational data – are run through the upcoming full stock assessment for red snapper.
- To move forward now would jeopardize state management for anglers in all Gulf states and devastate the economic engine that is red snapper fishing in these states.
Data collection and analysis in the Gulf is a convoluted and complex issue with data coming from multiple sources. The results of the Great Red Snapper Count (GRSC), a groundbreaking collaborative effort of top fisheries scientists, show that there are three times as many red snapper in the Gulf than previously thought. NOAA Fisheries has traditionally relied on a long-running bottom longline survey for its information. However, this data does not provide a complete picture of how many red snapper are in the Gulf because they do not include fish found over sand and mud bottoms.
Incorporating new science into fisheries management should be done thoughtfully and cautiously. However, the SSC opted to not include any of the results of the GRSC in determining catch level recommendations for the Council. Unfortunately, rather than using catch limits informed by the results of the Great Red Snapper Count, the SSC chose to use the “traditional” approach to set next season’s annual biological catch limit.
To complicate matters further, the lack of a quota increase jeopardizes the highly successful state management system that was begun three years ago for private anglers and has resulted in substantially improved fishing access in part due to the use of innovative state surveys to monitor harvest. However, NOAA Fisheries has repeatedly expressed the need to “calibrate” these state data collection programs to the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) to generate a “common currency.”
State data collection programs were initially developed because of concerns over the inaccuracy of MRIP, yet they are being required to sync up with the very system they were designed to move away from.
As a result, the SSC proposal could cut Alabama and Mississippi’s quotas by an estimated 50-60% and threaten the entire state management process.