Gulf Red Snapper Season in October?
Updates from the August Gulf Council Meeting.
During the August Gulf Council meeting in Pensacola, the Council agreed to re-open the recreational red snapper season on October 1 for an addition 24 days. The measure will be reviewed and, if approved, implemented by NOAA Fisheries. NOAA Fisheries is currently seeking comment on the proposed emergency action and will accept comments through August 31, 2010.
The rationale is that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and subsequent federal fishing area closure resulted in reduced fishing effort, leaving the recreational red snapper quota unfilled. NOAA Fisheries determined that approximately 2.3 millions pounds of the 3.4 million pound recreational quota remains.
In other red snapper news, the Council also discussed an increase in red snapper total allowable catch for 2011-2012. That would mean commercial and recreational quotas of 3.664 million pounds and 3.521 million pounds, respectively.
The Gulf Council approved a NOAA request that will prohibit the recreational harvest of gag grouper beginning January 1, 2011. Commercial interests would be given a 100,000-pound commercial quota. The commercial quota was established to allow commercials targeting other species to retain bycatch of gag grouper.
A re-opening is dependent upon a reassessment that will soon be underway and available for Council review during its February 2011 Council meeting. The Council will decide at that time whether it is necessary to request an extension of the interim rule or a new revised interim rule that would allow for some recreational harvest of gags.
Gag grouper is one of the four species included in the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan’s Reef Fish Amendment 32. Because that amendment is not scheduled for implementation until mid-late 2011, an interim rule is necessary to minimize regulatory discards and reduce overfishing of gag. Public hearings will be scheduled early next year, with final action expected during the June or August 2011 Council meeting.
Recent Gulf Council action could result in a new recreational season closure for greater amberjack. The Council claims the new closure dates would be an effort to avoid in-season quota closures during peak fishing months and maximize social and economic benefits. Last year the recreational AJ season closed October 24. The Council has tentatively chosen a recreational seasonal closure of June 1 through July 31, as its preferred alternative.