ASA concern over ‘incredibly conservative’ red snapper catch limit
The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) says that a crisis has been averted in the management of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, but it remains concerned about ‘incredibly conservative’ catch limits in the future.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s approval of a slight increase in the 2021 catch limit is soured by the condition that its Scientific Review Committee revisits catch level recommendations that largely ignored the Great Red Snapper Count (GRSC).
The GRSC revealed that Gulf red snapper are three times more abundant that previously estimated. Despite this, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee elected not to include any of the results in its Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) recommendation to the Council.
Now the ASA has asked that the SSC review red snapper catch advice for 2021 and beyond as soon as the GRSC final report can be considered. There is further concern in the Council’s decision to resolve differences in federal and state data collection estimates, which will effectively reduce the Alabama and Mississippi by around 50% and 60% respectively, a move scheduled for January 2023.
“While we are relieved that the Gulf Council’s actions will largely keep private recreational fishing regulations stable for 2021, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Kellie Ralston, Southeast Fisheries Policy Director for the ASA. “We remain concerned that, by ignoring the GRSC, the SSC set an incredibly conservative ABC limit.
“In addition, the action to calibrate the more precise and timely state surveys with the federal survey puts the future of state management, and all the benefits it has provided for recreational fishing, at risk. “A lot of work must be done over the coming months and years to rectify the continued disconnect between overly precautionary management decisions and the clear abundance of Gulf red snapper,” added Ralston.