The National Marine Fisheries Service has a legal mandate to rebuild the Gulf of Mexico's red snapper population; and that's most likely going to mean a two fish limit for recreational anglers. If these new regulations go into effect that means a cut in the daily limit by 50%.
The public has until the end of next month, the 26th, to comment. After those comments are considered and factored into the decision, some form of the new regulation proposed earlier this week will go into effect.
For additional background and history on the story read:
Red Snapper regulations under review and
Area fishermen and shrimpers discuss new proposed regulations
Major snapper cutback planned
Government will accept public comments before finalizing new rules that include daily two-fish limit for recreational anglers
Friday, December 15, 2006
Citing a legal requirement to rebuild the Gulf of Mexico's red snapper population, the National Marine Fisheries Service formally proposed new regulations Thursday, cutting the annual harvest by a third and the recreational limit in half, from four fish per day to two.
The rules, described as "draconian" by Vern Minton, head of Alabama's Department of Marine Resources, also limit shrimping off Texas in order to reduce the number of young snapper drowned in shrimp nets and significantly reduce the number of fish that charter boats are allowed to keep each day.
And the size limit on snapper for commercial fishermen will be lowered from 15 inches to 13 inches because most of the fish caught by commercial boats die before they can be returned to the water, according to fisheries data.
The federal fisheries service is accepting comments from the public on the proposed rule changes through Jan. 26. Those comments will be considered before the final version of the rule is enacted.
Red snapper have been commercially harvested from the Gulf since the late 1800s. Prized for their firm white flesh, snapper command top dollar at seafood markets all over the nation.
Part of the snapper's appeal to fishermen has been a willingness to bite a hook covered in nothing fancier than a hunk of fish or shrimp. That willingness to be caught, coupled with the market popularity of snapper, were nearly the undoing of the species and led the fishery service to classify them as "overfished," starting in the 1980s.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which advises the federal fishery service on how to regulate Gulf fisheries, did not issue a rebuilding plan for snapper this year.
Instead, the council, made up of members from each Gulf state, voted to delay making a recommendation until 2007 in the hopes that new data might show some improvement in snapper stocks and stave off the pending harvest cuts.
Federal officials, on the other hand, said the law required them to press ahead and issue a rebuilding plan this year.
Federal officials acknowledged that charter boats, particularly those based in Orange Beach and Dauphin Island, will likely suffer for several years under the new rules.