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Red Snapper Update

Posted July 25, 2017 11:50 am
By Christopher Hong
Regulation changes on red snapper may allow anglers to harvest popular game fish


http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2017-07-25/regulation-changes-red-snapper-may-allow-anglers-harvest-popular-game-fish


Major changes could be made to the strict and controversial regulations on Atlantic red snapper that would allow anglers to harvest the popular game fish, driven by biologists’ belief the species is recovering from overfishing much faster than previously thought.



Officials who manage fishing regulations in federal waters hope the changes could create an open season next summer, which would be the first since 2014. They also say it’s possible the fishery could temporarily open as early as this fall.

There’s been just a few opportunities to keep red snapper since the federal government enacted a strict set of rules in 2010 to help them recover from overfishing and rebuild their numbers off the east coast.

The potential overhaul to those rules is a major development in the acrimonious red snapper saga, which has pitted many in the city’s ubiquitous fishing community against federal fishery officials.

SEE ALSO

Environmentalists sue over extended red snapper season
Locals are hopeful feds will reopen red snapper fishery off Florida’s northeast coast
The reasoning behind the proposed change is two-fold.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which manages fishing in the Southeast’s federal waters, believes new data shows the red snapper population rebounded much stronger in recent years than previously estimated. They believe the species is now resilient enough to handle conservative fishing seasons without risk to their recovery.

They also believe some of the data used to estimate the number of fish caught and killed each year — a crucial part of determining whether there is an open season — is too uncertain to be used. The council is now working to establish a new process that relies on more reliable data.

“When I look at the … data and see the upward trajectory, yeah, I have a hard time continuing justifying the closure,” said Roy Crabtree, a regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that oversees fishing in federal waters. “I would view it that the management has been working over the last seven to eight years. I know fishermen have sacrificed.”

An undeniable fact complicates fishery management: It’s impossible to count every fish in the ocean, 0r even every fish caught.

Biologists have many ways to work around that obstacle when determining the overall health of a particular fish. They survey anglers and deploy traps equipped with cameras. They develop complex formulas to estimate fish populations and how many are killed by fishermen each year.

But estimates are just that and their reliability is often limited by the data used to create them.

That inherent uncertainty hasn’t sat well with many anglers, who say their observations on the water lead them to believe red snapper are doing just fine. How in the world could they not be, they ask, when they often catch more red snapper than any other fish, including the ones biologists say are abundant enough for them to keep.

Anglers can still catch and release red snapper. But the closure has hit a raw nerve. For some anglers, a bounty of wild fish is a sacred part of their relationship with the ocean. For others, it’s a real justification to the costs of owning a boat.

Red snapper aren’t the first fish anglers have accused the government of getting wrong. It probably won’t be the last. Still, the dispute revealed an underlying mistrust many in the fishing community hold about the government’s ability to manage fishing.

Ask around enough and you’ll find people who believe the red snapper rules were created as part of a secret government agenda to end fishing.

“Their hearts may be in the right place, but they’re not looking at real numbers,” said Chris Rooney, president of the Jacksonville Offshore Fishing Club. “Guys like me, I can take you out tomorrow, we could get a two-person limit. Snapper stocks are unbelievable.”

• • •

Most people with an interest in red snapper agree that at some point starting in the 1990s, it was painfully obvious red snapper were overfished.

In 2008, the federal government released a study concluding red snapper remained overfished and their numbers had dipped to dangerously low levels.

That finding forced them to create a plan to help the fish recover. Officials considered closing widespread areas to fishing. Anglers responded with outrage.

That idea was dropped and an alternative approach was agreed upon in 2010: Red snapper would be off-limits to the ice chest until further notice.

The moratorium was lifted in 2012 with a six-day season. There were similarly brief seasons in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, biologists determined too many fish were killed the prior year and closed red snapper to harvest. There hasn’t been a season since.

A 2014 study tracking the progress of the red snapper’s recovery found while their numbers were growing, overfishing was still occurring. It found the population lacked bigger fish capable of laying more eggs than their younger cohorts. It also concluded too many fish were being killed by anglers.

Holly Binns, the Tallahassee-based director of a campaign to end overfishing run by an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the study showed the recovery efforts were working, but needed more time.

“When a species starts to rebuild, the first thing you hear is, ‘They’re back. We should fish them again.’ The challenge is getting that balance right during that interim period to make sure you don’t open the flood gates so wide that we return to where we were before,” Binns said.

A major driver of the fish being killed during the last several years aren’t fish being kept. Instead, it’s the number of fish believed to die after being released.

Biologists estimate a significant number of red snapper caught and released don’t survive. The high death rate — referred to as “dead discards” — is mostly attributed to the trauma of being quickly pulled from their deep water habitat, similar to “the bends” that can kill scuba divers who surface too quickly.

Biologists acknowledge the estimates are based on highly uncertain data. But this year, they took an unusual step. They rejected the dead discard estimates because the uncertainty was too high to be considered reliable science.

It was a significant decision that has opened the door for a major overhaul to red snapper rules.

Federal law requires overfished species, like red snapper, to be protected under a rebuilding plan. Overfished species can still be harvested, as long as the number of fish killed doesn’t surpass a limit set by biologists each year.

The limits are required to be supported by the best available science, a measure to keep politics and biology separated. If a catch limit is surpassed one year, the next year’s limit is automatically set to zero.

Without the dead discard estimates, biologists haven’t been able to determine how many fish were killed last year — and, more importantly, how many fish could be harvested in 2017.

Chester Brewer, a member of the South Atlantic Council, said that has given the council an opportunity to “do what we think is right.” In this case, he said the right thing is opening the species to harvest.

“Making sure you’re not doing harm to the fishery and creating maximum accessibility. That’s the balance,” he said.

Officials now believe there’s evidence the number of fish killed during the last several years didn’t interfere with their recovery. They say the conclusion is supported by fish trap surveys from 2015 and 2016 showing fish numbers to be significantly higher than previous years.

If that’s the case, the council has argued anglers can continue harvesting a similar number of fish that were kept during the 2014 season without hurting their recovery.

“We had to rely on the science we had. Things evolve when you get more data,” Crabtree said. “I think the general feeling on the council is that given the speed and the good news on the stock, and the rate it’s rebuilding, we don’t need to keep this fishery closed, and it’s time to re-open.”

Biologists are looking at ways to improve data used to set catch limits in the future. Until that is figured out, the council decided to move forward with a temporary process to create a 2018 season.

That process is currently being developed and the council hopes to approve it during its September meeting. They could also discuss at that meeting whether to open red snapper to harvest later this fall, Crabtree said.

Public comments on those changes can be made during an online seminar Aug. 3.

To ensure they can approve the temporary rules in time for next summer, the council decided not to include measures it was already considering, like requiring anglers to use descending devices to help increase survival rates for released fish.

Since the new process is on an expedited route, it will also not be formally reviewed by the council’s Science and Statistics Committee, a group of advisers that reviews the scientific soundness of the council’s decisions.

“That does concern me,” Binns said. “The council’s science advisers are independent scientists with expertise. They make sure the number of fish caught each year doesn’t exceed a number that isn’t sustainable over the long-term.”

Crabtree said a permanent process would be fully vetted by the science committee.

Brewer said the length of the season has yet to be determind, but he thinks it’d be about six days over three weekends starting in July, if approved. He said he’s confident that won’t interfere with the snapper’s recovery and may possibly help repair the damaged relationship between fishermen and the officials charged with ensuring there are fish to be caught.

“People don’t trust us anymore,” he said. “Everything I hear is that they’re just ate up with red snapper. We need to figure a way to catch and keep some of these fish.”
Mark P. Wilson
Marine Surveyor, SAMS-SA, ABYC
Wilson Yacht Survey, Inc




Replies

  • optimistic Angleroptimistic Angler Posts: 626 Officer

    Most people with an interest in red snapper agree that at some point starting in the 1990s, it was painfully obvious red snapper were overfished.

    I don't agree with that. Red Snapper was over fished in the 1980s.
    Stricter and stricter limits was put in place throughout 1990s and the stocks improved. By the early 2000s it was obvious that Red Snapper was rebuilding.
    Just before the 2010 closure went into effect many people were catching personal best fish. Now with 7 years of almost always closed fishery sure there are more Red Snapper then anyone can remember.
    Now the problem is Grouper fishing with all the swarms of Red Snapper in the way. Only our government can turn Red Snapper into a nuisance fish .
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 13,282 AG
    I don't agree with that. Red Snapper was over fished in the 1980s.
    Stricter and stricter limits was put in place throughout 1990s and the stocks improved. By the early 2000s it was obvious that Red Snapper was rebuilding.
    Just before the 2010 closure went into effect many people were catching personal best fish. Now with 7 years of almost always closed fishery sure there are more Red Snapper then anyone can remember.
    Now the problem is Grouper fishing with all the swarms of Red Snapper in the way. Only our government can turn Red Snapper into a nuisance fish .

    It's a poor mans game of whack a mole. You close one species and then, the next species in line becomes "overfished". People want to catch fish they can keep, if they can't keep snapper, they'll target grouper. Now Cobia are on the chopping block.
    Like is like a Helicopter.  I do not know how to operate a Helicopter  
  • optimistic Angleroptimistic Angler Posts: 626 Officer
    I wasn't saying there was a lack of Grouper or even Cobia. I was saying that Red Snapper such are a nuisance fish that it's hard to keep a bait down long enough to catch a Grouper.
    I catch 18 # Red Snapper fishing for Trigger fish with a 2/0 hook and a 1" piece of squid. People trolling for Kingfish are catching Red Snapper.
    Red Snapper have been mismanaged for 40 years. First they were over fished. Then from the late 1990s to the late 2000s they were actually managed properly they were rebounding at a decent rate. Then out of nowhere for bogus reasons they were shut down and mismanaged again. Red Snapper are such a nuisance fish I try to fish places that hold less of them. I have broken 2 Triggerfish rods accidentally hooking large nuisance Red Snapper.
    Only government can take one of my lifetime favorite fish to catch and eat and turn them into such a nuisance that I spend more time trying to avoid them then I ever could have imagined.
  • optimistic Angleroptimistic Angler Posts: 626 Officer
    Red Snapper are like puffer fish on the flats
    Red Snapper are like sharks
    After a day fishing people ask did you catch anything, A typical reply might be no just a bunch of pesky Red Snapper.
  • J-SeaJ-Sea Posts: 202 Officer
    'Possible' six day season. Still a sham. How do the guys (Crabtree) who enforced the dead discards for the last 7 years, who now suddenly say 'oops that was bad science we shouldn't do that', keep their **** jobs?!?
  • SushiwagonSushiwagon Posts: 92 Greenhorn
    Red snapper were NOT overfished when the closure went into place. We had 5 on the boat the day before the closure took place and limited out w. 10 nice fish prior to 11 AM. Most charter captains would tell you that the red snapper fishing was the best they had seen it in years right before the closure went into place. Stupidest thing i have ever seen. Cant even go target a freaking triggerfish or lane snapper because all you catch is reds. Meanwhile not a grouper to be seen but lets let the commercial guys just decimate them during the thermals and keep protecting the most plentiful fish in the ocean. Zero logic. Oh one more little fact that might interest anyone with a brain. IF your going to insult our intelligence and open some BS 3 day season to make us feel warm and fuzzy then DONT **** do it on the full moons in the summer when all the big breeding fish are full of roe. Jesus my head might explode from the stupidity of the lawmakers.
    Chuck Norris doesnt wear a watch, Chuck Norris decides what time it is! :cool
  • kingralphkingralph Posts: 35 Greenhorn
    I just want to be able to keep one per trip.. just one is fine
  • LivinTheDreamPCLivinTheDreamPC Posts: 223 Deckhand
    Sushiwagon wrote: »
    Red snapper were NOT overfished when the closure went into place. We had 5 on the boat the day before the closure took place and limited out w. 10 nice fish prior to 11 AM. Most charter captains would tell you that the red snapper fishing was the best they had seen it in years right before the closure went into place. Stupidest thing i have ever seen. Cant even go target a freaking triggerfish or lane snapper because all you catch is reds. Meanwhile not a grouper to be seen but lets let the commercial guys just decimate them during the thermals and keep protecting the most plentiful fish in the ocean. Zero logic. Oh one more little fact that might interest anyone with a brain. IF your going to insult our intelligence and open some BS 3 day season to make us feel warm and fuzzy then DONT **** do it on the full moons in the summer when all the big breeding fish are full of roe. Jesus my head might explode from the stupidity of the lawmakers.

    :rotflmao
  • LivinTheDreamPCLivinTheDreamPC Posts: 223 Deckhand
    I am going to keep this short and sweet. You cant really blame the scientist completely. After all they supported carbon dating. Scientists sitting in a white coat in a lab 300 miles from the nearest ocean are not going to be able to know the pulse of the sea life in the ocean. Science is bad. Scientific data is bad. Everyone knows this. ARS (American Red Snapper) are not endangered. They are over-populated as some have said probably at the cost to other species such as grouper. There are too many of them now. Ok we all know this.

    If you want to blame someone, blame your representative that you spent time standing in line to vote for. Our representatives are supposed to represent the populations of areas in which they were voted in. So how come our representatives our not representing us on this topic???? The answer: This topic is not as romantic and sweet and heart felt as manatees and sea turtles. Boy lookie here, when those topics come up people shed tears, and rip up papers and march, and etc. etc. But nobody marches for snapper. Blame or Thank your local representatives for letting this lie of bad science continue to rob fisherman from feeding their families and commercial guys to keep their jobs.......
  • ChadChad Satellite Beach, FLPosts: 132 Deckhand
    Some real doosey quotes below. So having said what they say below, they are going to keep the "season" closed over 98% of the year and actually try and posture that this would be a "season". 6 days is not a "season". Hope you dont have any vacation plans with the family for one or 2 of the weekends they pick, you might miss one or two thirds of the season. Lets all schedule our lives around 3 weekends for 1 snapper in July. All they are trying to do is throw this 6 day BS out to gauge if people jump on it and feel like we've been appeased. Go back to the drawing board tools.


    “When I look at the … data and see the upward trajectory, yeah, I have a hard time continuing justifying the closure,” said Roy Crabtree, a regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that oversees fishing in federal waters. “I would view it that the management has been working over the last seven to eight years. I know fishermen have sacrificed.”

    “People don’t trust us anymore,” he said. “Everything I hear is that they’re just ate up with red snapper. We need to figure a way to catch and keep some of these fish.”
  • optimistic Angleroptimistic Angler Posts: 626 Officer
    Chad wrote: »
    “When I look at the … data and see the upward trajectory, yeah, I have a hard time continuing justifying the closure,” said Roy Crabtree,

    **** I didn't know it was his job to justify going against the science.

    :huh
  • jay825jay825 Posts: 517 Officer
    Its fight we not going to win!! Just do what I do ARS season is opens in the Atlantic I go fishing for them in the Atlantic! Oh wait the ARS season on the Gulf side is open so I fish the gulf side. So fish for them wherever they have open season at.
    A BAD DAY OF FISHING! IS BETTER THAN A DAY HOME WITH THE WIFE!!
  • gatorhookgatorhook Posts: 657 Officer
    Something tells me soon the commercial sector is going to profit big off the harvest of ARS in the Atlantic.
  • DevodudDevodud Posts: 356 Deckhand
    gatorhook wrote: »
    Something tells me soon the commercial sector is going to profit big off the harvest of ARS in the Atlantic.

    I'm with you gator. There is going to also a commercial season (probably more than the recreational) and someone is going to make a butt load of money **** the resource. If there wasn't money involved they wouldn't even consider opening it up....
    "If you're gunna be stupid, you gotta be tough"
  • Nothins EZNothins EZ Posts: 3 Greenhorn
    Opening the season in July during Full Moon spawn is ridiculous. Puts to many people on the water and excessive pressure on the fish.
    Would make more sense if they have a season that allows harvest 1 weekend every month-Friday, Saturday, Sunday. 36 days which we know half those days will be blown out.
    They will allow commercial fishing all year until they hit their quota then close the fishery to recreational fisherman again.
    Vicious cycle of Politics and Money.
  • J-SeaJ-Sea Posts: 202 Officer
    I do have to say it is amusing how Roy Crabtree has completely changed his tune on this entire ball of wax since our newly elected republican president appointed a republican Secretary of Commerce who is essentially Roy's Bosses bosses boss. Hypocrisy at it's finest.

    I haven't bottom fished north of bethel since the 2014 mini season. Gotta try and run away from the **** red snapper.
  • saltybumsaltybum Posts: 1,611 Captain
    Any fish that has a $ sign on his head will always be in danger of overfishing.
  • seanfishseanfish Posts: 254 Deckhand
    Six days is just gonna **** off more people, and possibly put some in danger. What happens when the weather is 3-4 @ 4seconds?...its downright nasty in most boats and I'm not gonna run out and get my butt beat for a couple fish. The gulf side did it halfway right with an actual time frame of an open season (granted it was only weekends), but it give opportunity to most anglers to actually fish if they so chose to.
  • Day TripperDay Tripper Posts: 508 Officer
    they don't care about weather they want it rough so we can't get out.
  • J-SeaJ-Sea Posts: 202 Officer
    You can click the link below and provide your public comments for the upcoming public hearing the SAFMC will be having on opening a red snapper season in 2018. Scroll down and click the 'Click here to submit a written comment on Snapper Grouper Amendment 43'

    http://safmc.net/safmc-meetings/public-hearing-and-scoping-meeting-schedule/

    There are only 106 comments as of my submission - surely everyone who posted here can take the time to add a positive public comment for consideration in this public hearing.

    Here's Mine:
    I commend the change of opinion of the council and Ray Cabtree to remove the dead discards mortality from your modeling. It is time to end the absurdity of the last 7 years of red snapper closure on the southeast coast of the US. With a new Secretary of Commerce in charge it is time to end the influence of Environmental groups and special interest. Listen to the will of the people and stop this madness. Be true to the resource and the citizens of the United States who own this public resource. Please don't pander to us with a 6 day season while the unjust inequities of the Gulf Of Mexico snapper fisheries get a season of almost 50 days. We recreational fishermen are on the water as much as anyone and we see the truth. We are watching your actions and we expect a fair and just season and allotment of American Red Snapper for the recreational fishery.
  • Bout TimeBout Time Posts: 59 Greenhorn
  • TritonRiderTritonRider Posts: 62 Greenhorn
    Red Snapper are like puffer fish on the flats
    Red Snapper are like sharks
    After a day fishing people ask did you catch anything, A typical reply might be no just a bunch of pesky Red Snapper.

    absolutely true
  • aubvetaubvet Posts: 15 Greenhorn
    Why can't they have a tag system. You buy ten tags a year. If you kill one you tag it. If you catch a nice one you tag it. Tag which ever ones you want, but you only have ten. Sell the tags for ten dollars apiece. Then the government could get their money. Everyone would be happy. At least we could keep some.
  • Panfishangler1Panfishangler1 Posts: 885 Officer
    what im confused about are these links:
    these telling me Red Snapper in the Atlantic is open season: http://www.eregulations.com/florida/fishing/saltwater/florida-saltwater-fishing-species-and-limits/
    http://myfwc.com/media/4219696/QuickChart.pdf

    And this link telling me its closed: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snappers/#atlantic

    Can someone shed some light on to these links straight from FWC
    Panfishanglersigdownsized.gif
  • zerepenerzerepener Posts: 56 Greenhorn
    what im confused about are these links:
    these telling me Red Snapper in the Atlantic is open season: http://www.eregulations.com/florida/fishing/saltwater/florida-saltwater-fishing-species-and-limits/
    http://myfwc.com/media/4219696/QuickChart.pdf

    And this link telling me its closed: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snappers/#atlantic

    Can someone shed some light on to these links straight from FWC

    Open year round in Florida Atlantic waters. Closed in Federal

    Rene
  • CountryBumpkinCountryBumpkin Fla. Piney WoodsPosts: 1,778 Captain

    Can someone shed some light on to these links straight from FWC

    :Horse :Horse :Horse :Horse

    Yes.........learn to read the fine print.........light blue on top of the chart clearly states rules apply to "state waters" of the Gulf & Atlantic.

    In the Gulf that extends out for 9 miles..........in the Atlantic for 3 miles.

    :Horse :Horse :Horse :Horse
  • Day TripperDay Tripper Posts: 508 Officer
    Tags are always a great option problem is the abuse so they won't do it even though most of us would be honest and would abide by the rules.
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