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Citizen Science Project Expands to Include Red Snapper

Fishermen releasing Red Snapper along the South Atlantic coast can now help contribute data considered for effective management of the stock as it continues to rebuild. SAFMC Release, a project of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Citizen Science Program that offers fishermen the opportunity to provide data on shallow water grouper species being released, has now expanded to include Red Snapper. Information, including length of the fish, depth of release, optional location, any observed shark predation, and release treatment (e.g., use of a descending device or venting tool) is provided using the SciFish mobile app.

The number of released fish is growing along the South Atlantic coast due to many factors including increasing fishing pressure and regulations. This is especially true for species like Red Snapper where seasons are very limited for both recreational and commercial fishermen as the stock continues to rebuild. While dockside intercepts and other traditional data collection efforts provide information about species that are landed, very little data are available on released fish. As a result, there is an increasing need to document release length and discard mortality rates for shallow water grouper and Red Snapper populations. SAFMC Release allows private recreational fishermen, charter captains, and commercial fishermen an easy-to-use tool designed to fill data gaps.

The decision to expand the SAFMC Release project to include Red Snapper was influenced by feedback from fishermen targeting snapper grouper species managed by the Council. The SAFMC Release project began as a pilot project in 2019, with fishermen logging release information on Scamp Grouper. In 2021, the project expanded to include all shallow water grouper (Black Grouper, Coney, Gag, Graysby, Red Grouper, Red Hind, Rock Hind, Scamp Grouper, Yellowfin Grouper and Yellowmouth Grouper) and the project was housed under the citizen science mobile app, SciFish. SciFish is a customizable citizen science mobile app that will eventually house multiple projects developed by state and federal marine resources agencies and regional fishery management councils. As partners in the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program, data standards are maintained for the projects.

“The expansion of the SAFMC Release project to include Red Snapper is timely and provides a unique opportunity for fishermen to fill data gaps,” said Council Chair Mel Bell. “The project is not designed to estimate the total number of fish being released, nor does it aim to collect information on catch levels or catch rates,” explained Chairman Bell. “Instead, data collected through SAFMC Release will help managers better characterize the size of released fish and survival rates.” Collecting data on released fish has been identified as a research priority for the Council’s Citizen Science Program and in various stock assessments. “The success of this project relies on fishermen that are willing to participate in providing these data as fish are released year-round.”

To participate in SAFMC Release and begin sharing data, fishermen can visit the SAFMC Release project webpage for additional details or contact Julia Byrd, Citizen Science Program Manager at Julia.byrd@safmc.net or 843-302-8493.

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