The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting public input on proposed changes to regulations for red snapper affecting how the current limited openings should be handled. A series of public hearings will be held via webinar from August 12-15, 2019 with listening stations established along the South Atlantic coast (see schedule below). The proposed changes include: 1) removing the minimum number of days for the South Atlantic red snapper seasons; 2) modifying the start date for the recreational red snapper season; 3) revising the days of the week recreational harvest of red snapper would be allowed during an open season; and 4) modifying the start date of the commercial season. The changes are proposed in Regulatory Amendment 33 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. Note that the proposed changes would not extend recreational or commercial seasons, increase the annual catch limits for red snapper, or change the recreational bag limit or commercial trip limit.
Each year, NOAA Fisheries uses data collected by the states to predict how long to allow harvest of red snapper the following year. Catch rates are applied to annual catch limits (for recreational and commercial sectors) to predict how long harvest can be open. The red snapper allocation is divided 72% recreational and 28% commercial, with a recreational annual catch limit of 29,656 fish and commercial limit of 124,815 pounds. Catch rates can vary based on factors such as day of the week (e.g., more angler fish on weekends), geographic location, weather, etc. Currently, commercial and recreational harvest of red snapper is not allowed if predictions indicate the season would last three days or fewer. The Council is considering removing this limit to maximize fishing opportunities for red snapper.
The commercial red snapper season begins each year on the second Monday in July and the recreational season begins on the second Friday in July. The Council is considering alternatives to modify the days of the week that are open to red snapper recreational harvest, should harvest be allowed, to help maximize opportunity in the event of bad weather. In addition, fishermen have expressed concern that harvest is being allowed during summer months while red snapper are spawning. Modifying the start date for the commercial season is being considered to maintain fairness and equitability between the sectors.
The public hearings are being held via webinar. Listening stations will also be available at various locations. Attendees participating via webinar must register prior to each hearing. The hearings will begin at 6:00 PM. Council staff will provide an overview of the actions and alternatives included in the amendment via webinar. Area Council members will be present at each listening station. Formal public comment will be accepted during the hearings. Written comments will also be accepted. Additional details, including the public hearing document and presentation and registration links are available from the Council’s website at: http://safmc.net/safmc-meetings/public-hearings-scoping-meetings/.