Snapper quota up, season extended
Federal fisheries scientists agree that red snapper over-fishing has ended and say they’ll seek a higher quota for the popular fish. They also say the snapper season will be slightly longer than it has been, opening June 1 and closing July 23.
In a news release, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said its Fisheries Service scientists agreed that over-fishing ended last year. That means the total allowable catch (TAC) of red snapper can be increased from its current five million pounds to 6.945 million pounds, NOAA said.
The new red snapper rule also raises the commercial quota to 3.542 million pounds and the recreational fishing quota to 3.403 million pounds. Rules require that the commercial quota be 51 percent of the total allowable catch.
The news release said under the old five million pound quota, the season would have been no longer than 34 days, ending on July 5.
“However, the 3.403 (million pound) recreational quota is estimated to support a 53-day fishing season in 2010,” the release said.
Raising the quotas is good news for charter boat owners, whose clients like to go after the easily-caught red snappers, which are also popular table fare.
Charter boat captains have maintained that, while snapper may have become scarce off the Florida coast, they are still plentiful in the western Gulf of Mexico.
Texas should be regulated differently from Florida, they argue.
Indeed, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has refused to follow federal guidelines on red snapper quotas, saying the computer models used to forecast snapper declines are questionable.
Raising the total allowable catch is “all well and good, but while they (raised) the TAC a bit for the commercial fishermen, they did nothing for (recreational fishermen),” said Mike Nugent, chairman of the board of Port Aransas Boatmen Inc.
Nugent is also the organization’s fisheries representative.
“NOAA claimed that recreational fishermen exceeded their quota in 2009,” Nugent said. “If the quota had been six million pounds, they’d have claimed we exceeded that, too.”
Copies of the final rule are available from NOAA Fisheries Service’s Southwest Regional Office, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, or on the Web at the Federal Register site, www. gpoaccess.gov/fr/advanced.html (use “AY57” as a keyword).