Scientific team selected to conduct independent abundance estimate of red snapper in

Jack HexterJack Hexter New Port RicheyPosts: 4,088 Moderator
November 17, 2017 A team of university and government scientists, selected by an expert review panel convened by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, will conduct an independent study to estimate the number of red snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico.


“American communities across the Gulf of Mexico depend on their access to, as well as the long term sustainability of, red snapper,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “I look forward to the insights this project will provide as we study and manage this valuable resource.”

The research team, made up of 21 scientists from 12 institutions of higher learning, a state agency and a federal agency, was awarded $9.5 million in federal funds for the project through a competitive research grant process. With matching funds from the universities, the project will total $12 million.

“We’ve assembled some of the best red snapper scientists for this study,” said Greg Stunz, the project leader and a professor at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. “The team members assembled through this process are ready to address this challenging research question. There are lots of constituents who want an independent abundance estimate that will be anxiously awaiting our findings.”

Recreational anglers and commercial fishermen will be invited to play a key role in collecting data by tagging fish, reporting tags and working directly with scientists onboard their vessels.

“The local knowledge fishermen bring to this process is very valuable and meaningfully informs our study,” Stunz said.

Some stakeholder groups have expressed concerns that there are more red snapper in the Gulf than currently accounted for in the stock assessment. The team of scientists on this project will spend two years studying the issue.

In 2016, Congress directed the National Sea Grant College Program and NOAA Fisheries to fund independent red snapper data collections, surveys and assessments, including the use of tagging and advanced sampling technologies. Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries worked collaboratively to transfer federal funds to Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant offsite link to administer the competitive research grant process and manage this independent abundance estimate.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for all red snapper anglers in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. “As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I was proud to author and secure federal funding to address the need for better data, which is a fundamental issue plaguing the fishery. The management of red snapper must be grounded in sound science if we want to provide fair access and more days on the water for our anglers. It is my hope that these independent scientists will be able to accurately determine the abundance of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico once and for all.”

“This research will be driven largely by university-based scientists with partners from state and federal agencies.” Stunz said. “This funding will allow us to do an abundance estimate using multiple sampling methods with a focus on advanced technologies and tagging for various habitat types.”

“I'm pleased to see that the independent estimate is moving forward and including the expertise of recreational fishermen,” said Rep. John Culberson of Texas. “I will continue to work with Texas fishermen and NOAA to address the inadequate access to red snapper.”

The project team will determine abundance and distribution of red snapper on artificial, natural and unknown bottom habitat across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists on the team include:

Greg Stunz, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi

Will Patterson, University of Florida

Sean P. Powers, University of South Alabama, Dauphin Island Sea Lab

James Cowan, Louisiana State University

Jay R. Rooker, Texas A&M University at Galveston

Robert Ahrens, University of Florida, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Kevin Boswell, Florida International University

Matthew Campbell, NOAA Fisheries (non-compensated collaborator)

Matthew Catalano, Auburn University

Marcus Drymon, Mississippi State University

Brett Falterman, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

John Hoenig, College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Matthew Lauretta, NOAA Fisheries (non-compensated collaborator)

Robert Leaf, University of Southern Mississippi

Vincent Lecours, University of Florida

Steven Murawski, University of South Florida

David Portnoy, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Eric Saillant, University of Southern Mississippi

Lynne S. Stokes, Southern Methodist University

John Walter, NOAA Fisheries (non-compensated collaborator)

David Wells, Texas A&M University at Galveston

Replies

  • Tarpon MonoxideTarpon Monoxide Posts: 481 Deckhand

    Article says an independent study will be done on the abundance of red snapper.

    The article refers to Dr. Greg Stunz as the PROJECT LEADER of the supposedly independent study.

    “We’ve assembled some of the best red snapper scientists for this study,” said Greg Stunz, the project leader and a professor at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi."

    What does the article not state that it should state but is suspiciously missing?

    VOTING MEMBER of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Dr. Greg Stunz is going to be the leader of this so called independent study.

    A voting member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Dr. Greg Stunz has a conflict of interest being the leader of a so called independent red snapper study when the study is not independent of the Gulf Council at all.

  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,109 Captain

    He's not a stakeholder or an employee of the Department of Commerce. The fact that he is a member of an advisory council doesn't present a conflict of interest. If you exclude scientists from advisory councils because they receive funding from an agency, you eliminate the best scientists from the decision making process.

  • toomertoomer Posts: 316 Deckhand

    Objectivity lies in the design and methodology and as long as both are sound, publicly known and replicable, then all should be ok. Hell, how is he gonna corrupt/co-opt 21 professionals even if he wanted to?

  • Jack HexterJack Hexter New Port RicheyPosts: 4,088 Moderator

    Dr. Stunz is not on an AP, he is a voting member of the Council from Texas. He may be good, but I'd still have reservations with him leading the study.

  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,109 Captain

    The Regional Fisheries Councils are advisory bodies that make recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service. While their recommendations are very often approved by NMFS, they are technically an advisory council. Conflict of interest does not apply to a member unless the person is also an economic stakeholder that could personally benefit from a decision.

    Expert reviews are generally called for when the overseeing council lacks sufficient expertise or data in a particular subject area. It's not uncommon for scientific expert review panels to be chaired by a member of the agency or an advisory council. Unless the study group is led by a person who understands the mission of the agency, the purpose of the study, and limitations imposed by the Federal bureaucracy, the final report resulting from the study could be useless.

    While it may seem inappropriate to have a voting member of the Gulf Council leading the study, that's pretty much how the process works based on my own experience with NIH, NSF, and EPA.

  • Tarpon MonoxideTarpon Monoxide Posts: 481 Deckhand

    Dr. Stunz is a VOTING MEMBER OF THE GULF COUNCIL. Dr. Stunz was reappointed for his second 3 year term. Nobody ever got reappointed to a second term unless they played Crabtree's game, nobody.

    "November 17, 2017 A team of university and government scientists, selected by an expert review panel convened by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, will conduct an independent study to estimate the number of red snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico."

    To have a voting member of the Gulf Council Dr. Stunz lead the so called independent study that is not independent at all because a voting member of the Gulf Council is the leader of the "independent" study.

    To say in that article that the study is independent is not only deceptive it is false.

    Why does a voting member of the Gulf Council on his second term need to be appointed the leader of the "independent" study when there are many others qualified that are not voting members of the Gulf Council?

    Why doesn't the article have full disclosure that Dr. Stunz is a voting member of the Gulf Council all the while leading the "independent" study.

    "While it may seem inappropriate to have a voting member of the Gulf Council leading the study, that's pretty much how the process works based on my own experience with NIH, NSF, and EPA."

    It not only seems inappropriate it is inappropriate for a voting member of the Gulf Council on his second term to be the leader of a study we are told is independent but in fact is not independent at all.

    If all is on the up and up then why was the fact that Dr. Stunz is a voting member of the Gulf Council suspiciously left out of the article?

    Any fishery study lead by a voting member of the Gulf Council is not an independent study.

    What Dr. Stunz should have done is to say no thank you I don't want to lead the red snapper study because I am a voting member of the Gulf Council because at the least it would have the appearance of impropriety and it would not be independent.

  • Tom HiltonTom Hilton Posts: 1,559 Captain

    Dr. Stunz is the best person to be leading this group - he is fighting the good fight for all of us - I have known him for many years now and he has proven to be unbiased scientist doing the best he can to get the best data possible. He has been performing "NMFS/Gulf Council Free" assessments here of of Texas for years now - he found a significant amount of red snapper on just 5 natural reefs off of Port Aransas - amounting to a good % of our Total Allowable Catch.

    I would suggest that we support those actually trying to fight the good fight rather than throw rocks - God knows I have thrown plenty of rocks at the Gulf Council/NMFS but not everyone on the Council has a privatization agenda or being promised a golden parachute by The Environmental Defense Fund.

  • Tarpon MonoxideTarpon Monoxide Posts: 481 Deckhand

    The best person to be leading a real independent study is a real independent person and not a person who is a voting member of the Gulf Council, which Dr. Stunz just happens to be a voting member of the Gulf Council.

    Notice the "study" was sold as "independent" but the study is headed by a voting member of the Gulf Council so therefore the study is not independent at all. The big problem is the the study was sold as something it was not.
    Where have we seen and heard that before?

    "November 17, 2017 A team of university and government scientists, selected by an expert review panel convened by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, will conduct an independent study to estimate the number of red snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico."

    The "study" has problems from the get go, first off no fisheries study that is lead by a voting member of the Gulf Council is independent as the article falsely states it is.

    The article pushes the study as an independent study when said study is headed by a voting member of the Gulf Council and it is not really an independent study. The article is trying to make the reader believe that the study is independent when the study is not independent at all.

    When the press release article touting the study came out with the false narrative that the study would be independent when it would really not be independent that should right there raise a red flag that something does not smell right from the get go when they have to falsely sell a not independent study as an independent study. Not surprisingly, they can't find another leader of their misnamed "independent" fishery study other than a sitting voting member of the Gulf Council.

  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,109 Captain

    If you think that a team of independent scientists are going to be swayed by a "leader" in regard to anything beyond procedural matters, you haven't been around enough scientists.

  • Tarpon MonoxideTarpon Monoxide Posts: 481 Deckhand

    Dr. Stunz has created the appearance of impropriety by being the leader of a study that was sold as an independent study that is in fact not independent because Dr. Stunz at the same time is a voting member of the Gulf Council all which he created the appearance of impropriety.

    Why does a sitting voting member of the Gulf Council Dr. Stunz need to be the leader of a study that is sold as independent when that leader of said study Dr. Stunz is currently a voting member of the Gulf Council? Nice double dipping, one taxpayer funded salary from the Gulf Council as a voting member and one tax payer funded salary from the "independent" study" as the leader of the "independent" study.

    You can try to cover for the academia but fact is Dr. Stunz as a voting member of the Gulf Council has no business being the leader of a study that has been press release sold as independent.

    Tom says Dr. Stunz "has been performing "NMFS/Gulf Council Free" assessments here of of Texas for years now" -

    Free? According to Dr. Stunz he has taken lots of grant money from the NMFS, Texas and others, PEW. And of course there is always an interest to keep the grant money flowing.

    https://www.harteresearchinstitute.org/sites/default/files/2016-10/StunzCV052016.pdf

    The question is with all the good independent scientists out there why was Dr. Stunz a voting member of the Gulf Council appointed to be the leader of a study that is press release sold to us as independent, all the while it can't be independent as long as it is lead by a voting member of the Gulf Council?

  • Tom HiltonTom Hilton Posts: 1,559 Captain
    edited February 19 #12

    Tarpon
    Thanks for posting his resume - he obviously is well qualified, and I honestly cannot think of a better person to lead this team.
    Who would be your recommendation?
    Tom

  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,109 Captain

    Yep. Nothing in his CV that would indicate any sort of bias.

    He's been very successful in obtaining competitive funding for his laboratory. That's a good thing, not a bad thing.

    The other thing that needs to be pointed out is that a scientist working on a grant-funded project doesn't get an increase in salary. If any funds go toward their salary, which is determined by their institution, it's typically for release time from other responsibilities such as teaching or administration. It's not clear that he will be getting any remuneration as Cheif of the study beyond that of his small stipend and expenses as a member of the Gulf Council.

    Sorry, but I just don't see any problem with this individual. The real problem is that a goal of determining the actual size of the red snapper population in the GOM is virtually impossible. But a study designed and carried out by a diverse group of scientists will be better than what we have now. I'm just hoping for the best rather than wishing that we could live in a perfect world.

  • Tom HiltonTom Hilton Posts: 1,559 Captain
    edited February 20 #14

    Maybe counting each and every fish is impossible, yes, but there are methods for extrapolating abundance across the Gulf. An example was how Alabama would identify species artificial reef types /depths and get an average count on a selected number using rovs, divers, etc. then extrapolating based on the different designs / depths of the hundreds/thousands of reefs. Dr. Stunz did an analysis of just 5 natural reefs and found an extraordinary number of snapper just on those refs.

  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,109 Captain
    edited February 20 #15

    You can get pretty reliable estimates from artificial reefs and high natural structures. But there is a large population of red snapper spread out all along the Florida Big Bend area over hard open bottom in as close as 50 ft. They are also found on similar flat open bottom areas off of SW Florida. These fish showed up only a few years ago after being absent for over at least 40 years. These appear to be mostly a single year class of fish, but there have been reports of some reproduction and recruitment in the Eastern Gulf. The hard bottom areas have not been well mapped in this region and they are diverse in their ability to support fish populations. We are talking about hundreds of square miles here. The degree of difficulty in measuring this population is much greater than for the high structure areas, oil rigs, and artificial reefs in the Western Gulf.

  • Tom HiltonTom Hilton Posts: 1,559 Captain

    Exactly what’s wrong today. The biomass has expanded and proliferated into areas that they haven’t been seen in decades yet our fisheries managers fail to acknowledge that in their calculations.

  • surfmansurfman WC FLPosts: 3,663 Captain
    edited February 28 #17
    Sorry, wrong thread.
    Tight Lines, Steve
    My posts are my opinion only.

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