Thursday, February 12, 2015

Red Snapper: Higher Harvest Limits on the Horizon

Photo: Joseph Cawthorn
Lately, much of the buzz about red snapper management has been less than positive. With sector separation, ever shortening seasons, and allocation on the roster, it’s easy to overlook the good news.

Here it is: The red snapper stock is getting healthier every year; fishermen, scientists, and managers alike know it, and when that happens, harvest limits can be raised.

In January, the Council’s scientific advisors (the Scientific and Statistical Committee) met to review a red snapper update stock assessment. Although the assessment was completed before 2014 landings data were available, results of the assessment suggest good news. The Council could increase allowable harvest by two million pounds for 2015 and beyond. An increase from 11,000,000 pounds to 13,000,000 pounds would bring the allowable harvest to its highest level in history.

Photo: David Payne
But wait, there’s more. Preliminary landings data from 2014 was reported to the Gulf Council during its most recent meeting in Alabama. The provisional landings estimates for 2014 indicate that the catches last year were lower than they were in 2013.  This means that more fish were left in the water in 2014 to spawn and contribute to stock biomass levels. The stock assessment scientists reviewed the 2014 provisional landings and reported that the acceptable biological catch could potentially be increased by nearly a million more pounds. However, the Council cannot use these increased projections to set 2015 quotas until its scientific advisors review the projections and approve new acceptable biological catch levels.

Photo: Kale Reynolds

In an effort to ensure the highest catch levels possible for this year, the Council has scheduled some special meetings to make the changes necessary to increase the 2015 red snapper annual catch limit.

On February 19, 2015, from 2-4 pm EST, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee will meet via webinar to review the provisional 2014 landings and formally suggest overfishing limits and annual catch limits for 2015 and beyond. You’re welcome to listen to that meeting live.

Then, on March 3, 2015, from 1-4 pm EST, the Council will meet via webinar to review the scientific advisors’ recommendations and decide on an annual catch limit for this year and potentially future years. The Council will host public testimony during that meeting; you’re welcome to listen live andgive testimony.