|Image credits: Dianne Pebbles, SAFMC|
|2010 Florida Snapper Landings (lbs) |
by FloridaCoast: Source:FWRI
Snappers are heavily regulated with high demand from both the commercial and recreational sectors. Stocks are managed separately in the Gulf and Atlantic waters. State regulations typically mirror federal rules for consistency, but this is not always true. Management of the snapper fishery has been challenging due to a lack of data on both the resource and the fishery. Improved data collection during the 1980s and 1990s has provided more management information on some of the more commercially and recreationally valuable species, but lack of basic management data on many of the species still remains the major obstacle to successful management.
Of Florida's three major commercial snapper species, yellowtail populations appear to be the most robust. They are neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing in either the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. While vermilion snapper are abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, population levels are lower in the Caribbean and South Atlantic. They are not considered overfished, but are experiencing overfishing in this region; management measures are currently in place to end overfishing.
|* denotes the stock is undergoing a rebuilding plan. |
Source: Gulf and S. Atlantic Fishery Management Councils
Several factors have contributed to the complexity associated with red snapper management:
Shrimp Trawl Bycatch
Historically, the unintended bycatch of juvenile red snapper in shrimp trawls contributed to a significant portion of snapper mortality. Over the past several years though, the domestic shrimp fleet has been significantly reduced due to fuel prices, competition with imports, and hurricanes. As a result, juvenile mortality levels have decreased, contributing to faster than expected rebuilding efforts. In addition, improved designs in Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) in shrimp nets is thought to have contributed to recovery efforts.
Because of strict regulations such as closed seasons and size and bag limits, many red snapper are released by fishermen. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of these released fish (approximately 40% of released recreational fish and up to 90% of released commercial fish) do not survive, which further hinders management efforts to rebuild the fishery. Recent regulations requiring the use of circle hooks, dehooking devices, and venting tool have helped to reduce release mortality of released fish.
In 2006 the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act set new guidelines to end overfishing and rebuild U.S. fish stocks. The re-authorization directed managers to act quickly to implement regulations to reduce mortality and end overfishing of affected stocks. As a result, managers were forced to implement more stern actions to rebuild red snapper stocks. Public Perception
Despite red snapper populations being considered overfished, many fishermen report catching more than ever before. Part of the issue has to do with the life history of red snapper. Red snapper are thought to live at least 50 years, and larger fish do not always mean older fish. Despite recent increases in overall numbers of red snapper, the age structure of the population remains truncated and there are not enough older fish to successfully repopulate the stock. Adding to the frustration of fishermen is that the ongoing snapper regulations have occurred during tough economic times, thus affecting their ability to earn a living from snapper fishing.
- Fishwatch. U.S. Seafood Facts: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute:
- Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council: http://www.gulfcouncil.org/
- Louisiana Sea Grant: http://www.lsu.edu/seagrantfish/faqs/index.html
- South Atlantic Fishery Management Council: http://www.safmc.net/
- South Carolina Aquarium's Sustainable Seafood Initiative: