Sportfishing industry supports proposed change, but more is needed

May 14, 2020 – Alexandria, Va. – Today, a proposed regulation was announced for public comment that would allow the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) additional flexibility to set the South Atlantic red snapper season. Amendment 33 to the South Atlantic Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan would remove the current prohibition on opening the season if it is projected to be three days or less.

“Continuing to rebuild and provide access to the popular South Atlantic red snapper is incredibly important to coastal communities throughout the region,” said Kellie Ralston, Southeast Fisheries Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “Amendment 33 is a step in the right direction in removing unnecessary barriers to access, but with increasing evidence supporting an extended season, anglers deserve better than three days or less.”

Limited red snapper seasons have been allowed in recent years, with nine days in 2017, six days in 2018 and five days in 2019. However, data uncertainty has clouded the most recent stock assessment and complicated management decisions. An updated assessment that incorporates new stock information is expected in the spring of 2021. In the meantime, fishery-independent abundance estimates show substantial increases in the number of red snapper over the last several years, despite allowing harvest.

In addition, a separate amendment that would require anglers to possess devices that improve the survival of released fish, is expected to be finalized soon.  Also, improved recreational harvest data is expected for Florida, where much of the South Atlantic red snapper harvest occurs, with today’s approval by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission of a statewide reef fish survey.

“Between ample evidence of increasing red snapper abundance, a new regulation to reduce discard mortality and improved recreational data we believe that anglers should be afforded a reasonable season length in 2020 and beyond,” said Ralston.