Snapper season ends July 19
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admistration’s (NOAA) Fisheries division has shortened the 2011 red snapper seaso. It started Wednesday, June 1, and ends Sunday, July 19.
However, NOAA closed the greater amberjack season during June and July in a move to increase amberjack stock in the Gulf.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, in a news release, said the shorter season was begun because of an increase in the size of snapper reported caught. Larger fish are needed in the water instead of in the live well so they can continue rebuilding the fish stock, the council said.
The season decrease is also despite an increase in both commercial and recreational snapper quotas, to 3.66 and 3.525 million pounds, respectively.
“We know that fishermen are seeing lots of red snapper, and that a shorter season seems counter-intuitive, but this is what we expect to see when a rebuilding plan is successful,” said Dr. Steve Bortone, the council’s executive director.
A 2009 survey showed that the snapper stock in the Gulf of Mexico is no longer overfished, but it hasn’t yet rebuilt, the news release said. Complete success of the rebuilding plan will be when the total weight of red snapper capable of reproducing equals the largest amount of fish that can be harvested. That magic number is roughly 10.16 million pounds, the council said.
The news release said biologists believe the reproductive stock of red snapper is still below what’s needed to rebuild the fish population. That’s because red snapper, which can live to be 50 years old, are more fertile in their older years, and those are the fish that are missing from the population.
It takes longer to replace those older fish, the news release said.
The bottom line: Red snapper are on schedule and expected to meet the rebuilding plan’s goals, the council said.
“What anglers are reporting is a good sign,” Bortone said. “We’re just not quite there yet.”
At the same time, the Federal Register announced the closure of the Gulf of Mexico to amberjack fishing from June 1 to Sunday, July 31. The council said closing the Gulf to amberjack fishing during this period would maximize the overall number of fishing days available to recreational anglers.
The June 1-July 31 period was chosen based on public input, and because that period somewhat coincides with the open fishing period for red snapper, the council’s newsletter said.
Commercial fishing for amberjack will close on Saturday, June 18.
“In 2009, the recreational sector went over the greater amberjack quota and the season closed Oct. 24,” according to the newsletter. “Final landings showed anglers went over the quota by 9 percent, which resulted in a reduction in the 2010 quota to account for the overage.”
During its April meeting, the council heard scientific reports that indicated the amberjack limit needs to be reduced.
Although the council’s scientific and statistical committee concluded that the assessment represents the best available scientific information, it believes the projections are not reliable and contain too much uncertainty,” the newsletter said.
The committee recommended a limit of 1.78 million pounds of amberjack.