Overview of the Issue

The red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico is an important commercial and recreational fishery that has been plagued by controversy.

Even though the Gulf red snapper population is healthier than it has been in decades, because of failures to use up-to-date data, federal fisheries managers keep reducing recreational fishing seasons. In 2016, the recreational season was just nine days.

The five Gulf states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida) have agreed on a path forward for state-based management of Gulf red snapper. Under the plan, each state would be responsible for developing and implementing a red snapper management plan for its waters, which would be approved by the rest of the states. The announcement was greeted with strong support from the recreational fishing community. State management was piloted in 2018-2019 seasons and has been approved by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council for the long-term, subject to final approval by the Secretary of Commerce.

What ASA is Doing

ASA continues to work with the states, Council, and our Congressional and conservation partners on how to reconcile state and federal red snapper data, and incorporating the results of the Great Red Snapper Count (GRSC). There is the potential for Alabama and Mississippi quotas to be cut by approximately 40 and 70 percent, respectively, to calibrate their data with the federal data and provide a common Gulf currency. If this happens, potential catch limit increases due to GRSC information could be used to offset impacts. Other options are being considered and negotiated. The results of the interim assessment based on GRSC information are expected at the Gulf Science and Statistical Committee meeting at the end of March.  This information will better inform management options prior to the April Gulf Council meeting.

Read more about the Great Red Snapper Count >

In April, 2021, ASA sent a Policy Alert to members warning that state management was at risk. Fortunately, thanks to outreach from industry member and rank-and-file anglers, that crisis was averted.

In a win for Florida, Keep America Fishing engaged anglers regarding the Western Dry Rocks, a key spawning area for snapper, in March of 2021. Thanks to the actions of conservation-minded anglers and our conservation partners, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a seasonal closure at Western Dry Rocks, an important spawning site for numerous recreational fish species.

South Atlantic red snapper have rebounded so much that scientists and fishermen both believe the stock is more abundant today than any living person has ever seen.

Despite this success, NOAA Fisheries has informed the South Atlantic Council that bottom fishing closures, in which fishing for 55 species of snapper and grouper would be prohibited, are necessary to reduce releases of red snapper. Large area and/or seasonal closures to all bottom fishing would be devastating to the recreational fishing industry and offshore anglers from North Carolina to Florida.

ASA engaged KAF Supporters in FL, GA, NC and SC asking them to comment on this important issue.

What You Can Do

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For more information, contact ASA Southeast Fisheries Policy Director Martha Guyas.