Red Snapper Act wins approval from US House Natural Resources Committee
The U.S. House’s Natural Resources Committee has voted to advance the Red Snapper Act, legislation that would limit NOAA Fisheries’ ability to close fisheries in the South Atlantic until a new red snapper survey is completed and incorporated into the stock assessment.
The legislation is the latest front in the battle between NOAA Fisheries and red snapper fishermen, the latter of whom argue that the regulators’ official stock assessment does not reflect the growing abundance of red snapper. The Red Snapper Act would prevent NOAA from implementing area closures in the South Atlantic until after the completion of the South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count, an independent study that is set to deliver new data by 2025.
“The Red Snapper Act will address longstanding management concerns held by thousands of anglers across Florida and the South Atlantic and will help support our nation’s local economies,” bill sponsor U.S. Rep. John Rutherford (R-Florida) said. “In Florida’s 5th Congressional District alone, the recreational fishing industry supports nearly 4,500 local jobs. Florida’s anglers deserve dependable access to red snapper fishing.”
Recreational fishermen have been frustrated by NOAA Fisheries’ management of red snapper. This year, the government set a two-day recreational red snapper season. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Congressional Sportmen’s Foundation, and the Center for Sportfishing Policy have endorsed the legislation.
“The Red Snapper Act is key in ensuring that the best science is used to inform South Atlantic snapper-grouper management, rather than rushing into hasty, job-killing decisions,” ASA Southeast Fisheries Policy Director Martha Guyas said. “Widespread closures are not needed and would be catastrophic to Florida’s nearly USD 14 billion recreational fishing industry.”
In mid-October, NOAA Fisheries announced USD 20 million (EUR 19 million) in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act for improving data on the red snapper stock. The money will be used to improve “recreational catch, effort, and discard estimates from federal and state surveys,” strengthen data sharing between state and federal bodies, and utilize artificial intelligence to enhance surveys, according to the agency. In its announcement, NOAA Fisheries hailed the red snapper as “one of the Gulf of Mexico’s most iconic species and perhaps one of the region’s greatest management success stories.
Photo courtesy of University of South Florida