More red snapper on the way?

Published on
December 17, 2009

More red snapper may find its way to market in 2010, as the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will recommend that the quota be increased from 5 million pounds to slightly more than 6.9 million pounds annually.

“Harvest levels were still a bit too high in 2008. However, scientific projections are promising for 2009, indicating that the stock may improve enough to support higher harvest levels,” said Dr. Bonnie Ponwith, science and research director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center.

The industry is more optimistic about the health of the Gulf red snapper resource, insisting that supplies are plentiful.

“The snapper population has exploded in the Gulf. We have been telling NOAA for years that there are so many snapper out here,” said Steven Rash, president and owner of Water Street Seafood in Apalachicola, Fla.

The council will recommend at its February meeting in Mobile, Ala., that NOAA increase the Gulf red snapper catch to 6.9 million pounds for commercial and recreational fisheries in 2010. The commercial fishery is allocated 51 percent of the catch. In 2008, commercial red snapper landings reached 2.4 million pounds, and the total catch amounted to 6.2 million pounds.

Increasing the quota will not make a significant difference in pricing in 2010, according to Rash. The ex-vessel price of red snapper remained fairly steady at $4 to $4.50 a pound in 2009.

Said Rash, “2.5 million pounds is not a lot of snapper, so economic conditions could affect pricing more. Competition from imports and different factors certainly impact the price.”

In the first 10 months of 2009, U.S. snapper imports totaled 24.4 million pounds, down 2.5 million pounds from the same period in 2008, according to NOAA.

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