December 3, 2015

Jones asks for answers on south Atlantic red snapper closure

U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., is standing up for fishermen in eastern North Carolina and throughout the southeast and demanding answers on the National Marine Fisheries Service’s closure of the South Atlantic red snapper fishery to commercial and recreational harvest in 2015.  

The decision was announced in June of this year by the South Atlantic Regional Office of NMFS.  In a letter to NMFS Southeast Regional Director, Dr. Roy Crabtree, Jones raised a number of specific questions about the decision and the science, or lack thereof, behind it.  

Those questions include:
  • How the agency could justify closing a fishery based on illogical data which estimated that total removal of South Atlantic red snapper in the extremely abbreviated 2014 fishing year was nearly three times the estimated removal for the full fishing year in 2013, and was similar to the average annual catch estimates for the period of 1992 to 2009 when fishing occurred year round? 
  • Why the agency has waited six years to update its last stock assessment on the species, a stock assessment that was highly controversial from the start?
  • What the agency has done to address the widely known flaws in both the quantity and quality of the data on this species?
  • Why the agency’s Southeast Science Center has apparently rebuffed fishermen’s efforts to conduct fisheries dependent and independent research to augment poor data in the South Atlantic red snapper stock assessment?
“The NMFS decision to keep the South Atlantic red snapper fishery closed for 2015 is a textbook example of the shortcomings of federal fisheries management at the current time,” said Jones. 

“Everyone acknowledges the data is poor, and has been for quite some time," he said.  "But rather than taking steps to improve it years ago, either in-house or through cooperative research, little was done.  And who suffers? Not the agency, but the fishermen who pay the taxes to support the agency.  It’s unacceptable, and the agency needs to provide some answers on how they’re going to make it right.”

Click here to read the letter.

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