PORT CANAVERAL, Florida — The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to allow limited red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic from North Carolina to Florida.
The Council voted 12 -1 to request that the National Marine Fisheries Service implement an emergency rule to reopen red snapper fishing. The request included the following provisions:
·The recreational fishery will open for one or more three-day weekends as soon as approvals are finalized.
·The commercial fishery will open in seven-day seasons until the catch limit is projected to be met. There will be a 50-pound trip limit for the commercial fishery.
·Recreational anglers will be limited to one red snapper per person per day. There will be no size limits for the recreational or commercial fisheries.
·NMFS and the states will dedicate additional resources to monitor the short seasons and collect as much biological data as possible during the brief opening.
The decision needs federal approval from the Department of Commerce and is expected this summer.
A red snapper fishing moratorium has been in effect since January 2010. The moratorium was implemented to end overfishing of the imperiled species.
The Council also voted to initiate a new management plan for red snapper that would include long-term management options for the red snapper fishery, including the consideration of a tag program. This could take a year or more to finalize and will involve extensive opportunities for public input.
"This is welcome news for fishermen, who can once again target a favorite catch. Red snapper is in better shape today because of the measures taken to save it," said Holly Binns, a project director for the Pew Environment Group based in Orlando, Florida. “The moratorium was always a last resort and a temporary stopgap to give the critically depleted species a needed break. Now we must be vigilant that overfishing does not happen again. Fishery managers must carefully monitor amounts of catch to avoid exceeding limits that are necessary to bring this valuable fish back.”
Binns cautioned, “This good news is tempered by the fact that the fish still have a long way to go. The population had plummeted to between 11 and 14 percent of a healthy level, and full recovery will take years. But lifting the moratorium is an early sign that the long-term rebuilding plan is working. And it suggests that if we stick with the program, red snapper can rebound.”