NOAA Fisheries amends red snapper bycatch rule for Gulf of Mexico shrimpers

Published on
February 10, 2020

NOAA Fisheries announced on Wednesday, 5 February, that changes to the Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Fishery Management Plan will take effect next month.

The main purpose of the amendment is to change the amount of red snapper bycatch for shrimpers. In 2005, limits were enacted after a stock assessment determined that shrimp fishing was a primary factor in affecting the red snapper’s viability.

“The Gulf red snapper stock is no longer overfished or undergoing overfishing, and continues to rebuild, consistent with the rebuilding plan,” the agency said in the amendment posted on the Federal Register on Thursday, 6 February.

With that in mind, officials at NOAA Fisheries Southeast Fisheries Science Center, at the request of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, studied whether shrimp fishing could be expanded without affecting the rebuilding plan. It was determined that increasing shrimp harvesting would be unlikely to affect the red snapper stock.

The effective date for the amendment is Monday, 9 March.

The Gulf Council said it wanted shrimpers to experience some benefit from the improved red snapper stock. In recent years, shrimp totals have gone down in the gulf due to a variety of factors.

Officials also noted that the number of federally permitted vessels have decreased over the last 14 years and that the new rule would not likely result in a significant increase in the targeted area.

“The action is expected to promote economic stability and achievement of optimum yield in the federal gulf shrimp fishery by reducing effort constraints and to equitably distribute the benefits from rebuilding, while continuing to protect, the gulf red snapper stock per the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act,” NOAA Fisheries said in a summary of the amendment.

The new rule will allow additional trawl fishing from just east of Pensacola, Florida, to Texas for an additional 5,800 vessel-days. That’s a relative increase of 21 percent, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Photo courtesy of Leigh Trail/Shutterstock

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