NOAA Fisheries approves limited 2017 red snapper season in the South Atlantic
For the first time in three years, NOAA Fisheries will allow fishermen to catch red snapper in the federal waters off the South Atlantic coast.
The announcement, which came last week at the request of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, means commercial fishermen can harvest up to 75 pounds (34 kilograms) a day starting Wednesday. The tentative date for the close of the season is 31 December, however that may be shortened if the commercial limit of 124,815 pounds (56,615.1 kilograms) is reached before then.
Recreational fishermen will be allowed to catch one fish per day over the next two weekends (3-5 November and 10-12 November).
The area covered includes waters up to 200 miles off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and the east coast of Florida. Council Chairman Charlie Phillips said the limited season will help the economy of communities that were hit by Hurricane Irma earlier this year.
“We sincerely appreciate the decision by the Secretary of Commerce to allow limited harvest of red snapper this year,” he said.
In 2010, federal officials determined the species to be overfished and implemented a ban on harvesting the fish. However, officials instituted limited seasons from 2012 through 2014 – the total harvest from those seasons kept officials from allowing fishing to take place during the last two years.
The Council also has given preliminary approval for a 2018 season, which would begin in July. However, the length of that season will depend on the harvest collected over the next two months.
NOAA and Council officials recommend fishermen use single hook rigs and to move out of the area once they’ve hit their daily limit. They also want fishermen to take steps to preserve the red snapper they intend to release back into the water as officials have expressed concern about the species mortality rates.
“The red snapper fishery has remained closed since 2014 because mortality estimates of the number of released fish exceeded the annual catch limit,” explained Captain Mark Brown, Council Vice-Chair and a full-time charter captain based in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. “It is imperative that we use best practices. The key to having future access to red snapper lies in reducing the mortality of fish that are released.”
Recreational fishermen are also asked to participate in a voluntary reporting program, through the website MyFishCount.com, to help assess the red snapper population. Anglers will have the opportunity to post photos of their catch and provide information on how they caught the fish and released it, if applicable.
“It is also imperative that anglers use best fishing practices as they take advantage of this opportunity to catch red snapper,” said Chester Brewer, a recreational fisherman from West Palm Beach, Florida, and a council member. “The use of descending devices and other best fishing practices will be highly beneficial in reducing fishing mortality as this stock continues to rebuild.”