Ocean Currents » red snapper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 MSA at 40: Fisheries in the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/29/msa-at-40-fisheries-in-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/29/msa-at-40-fisheries-in-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 14:30:08 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11763

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, or MSA, is a landmark piece of environmental legislation that led to significant conservation gains in the Gulf of Mexico. While the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act get all the glory in the arena of environmental laws, the MSA (which has been in place since 1976) has worked steadfastly to ensure that Americans have continued access to fish and that marine ecosystems stay healthy and resilient. Here’s three fisheries success stories emanating from the Gulf, reminding us as the MSA turns 40 this year that it’s a keeper.

Red Grouper

Some like it fried. Some blackened. Some broiled with a squeeze of lemon. No matter how you take it, red grouper is legendary both for its place on the dinner table and for its fight at the end of a fishing line. Because of the protections put in place for reef fish under the MSA, red grouper should continue to thrive for generations to come.

It was declared rebuilt in 2007, meaning that the stock is currently safe from overfishing, and that wild populations are thriving. This is great news where I live on the west coast of Florida, as the fish provides great fishing opportunities for charter, commercial and private recreational fishermen and is a strong indicator of sustainability in reef ecosystems.

Red Snapper

Red snapper is the most iconic fish of the Gulf of Mexico. Its delicate, flaky, white flesh makes it a favorite of shoppers at the fish market, recreational fishermen out on the water, and gourmands at white table cloth restaurants across the nation.

Although the recovery of Gulf red snapper is well underway, it is a story that has been peppered with challenges. Historical overfishing led to the stock being placed into an MSA-mandated rebuilding plan in 1990. Since then, rebuilding has been extremely successful—so much so that 2014 marked the highest allowable catch levels ever authorized by Gulf fisheries managers, a whopping 14.3 million pounds of fish.

Provisions in the MSA held commercial fishermen accountable for every red snapper they catch, meaning they do not exceed their share of the quota and rebuilding remains on track. Similar MSA-authorized provisions are in the works for the charter for hire fishery, and ultimately the MSA can give greater accountability to the private recreational component of the fishery as well.

King Mackerel

King mackerel, or kingfish, was declared rebuilt under the MSA in 2008. This was welcome news for this popular sportfish that makes for a fun day of fishing and for a delicious bounty for the smoker. Kingfish are travelers: They generally spend the summer months in the northern gulf, with two separate populations heading southward in the fall along the Florida and Texas coasts, and return to the Northern gulf in the spring. Their predictable migratory routes make them reliable and celebrated fall and springtime targets for Gulf fishermen. When I see them show up year in and year out, I know it’s because of MSA protections that have ensured the stock is healthy and sustainable.

Take action to protect the future of America’s fisheries.

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Gulf States Turn Down Management of Red Snapper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/28/gulf-states-turn-down-management-of-red-snapper/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/28/gulf-states-turn-down-management-of-red-snapper/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 21:14:44 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11411

Why would you turn down a good thing?

“No, thank you.” That’s what Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi said to a tool that would have empowered them to create individual and specific regulations for private fisherman in state waters at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council today.

This plan, called “Regional Management,” would have delivered a real and meaningful chance for private recreational fishermen from throughout the five states to fish under regulatory conditions that cater directly to their local needs. Fishermen from each state need to fish at different times of year, with different techniques and different local knowledge, out of ports that range in character and culture from Naples, Florida to Venice, Louisiana to Brownsville, Texas.

The benefits are clear.

Anglers would have customized access to red snapper. There would be greater accountability from the private recreational component. And it would lower the likelihood that the recreational component exceeds the overall red snapper quota season after season. In the long run, fewer quota overages and greater stability in the fishery would mean red snapper would continue to successfully rebuild and catch limits would continue to increase as the stock rebounds.

As an avid recreational fisherman and an Ocean Conservancy representative at the meeting, I was extremely disappointed that the voting bloc led by the five Gulf states rejected the plan.

The state wildlife agency representatives remained intractable. Not only were they unable to agree on the state red snapper quota allocations, they were also unwilling to move forward with the amendment without charter fishermen. The latter prefer federal management where they already have prospects of developing new management tools to benefit their fishery and expand access for their clients.

So what does this mean? 

The unfortunate outcome of the states’ failure to proceed with Regional Management is that private anglers will likely continue to see their seasons throttled, rebuilding progress of the stock is jeopardized, and quota overages in the recreational fishery will persist.

Click here to learn more about red snapper. 

 

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How Our Ocean Scored in the Omnibus Spending Bill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 20:20:08 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11243

This holiday season, we at Ocean Conservancy have a lot to be thankful for. At the very top of our list is you—our members, supporters and partners—who make our work possible.

Thanks to your tremendous support (24,000 of you contacted your member of Congress in support of a budget deal that would benefit the ocean and another 10,000 signed a petition to President Obama in support of the National Ocean Policy) we saw strong outcomes for ocean conservation in the omnibus spending bill that passed House and Senate today. 

How our ocean scored in the omnibus spending bill:

  • More funds to tackle ocean acidification – The budget for NOAA’s ocean acidification program increased from $8.5 million to $10 million dollars annually. This will help fund science to better understand how acidification will impact coastal communities across the U.S. Acidification is impacting coastal jobs and communities as increasingly acidic water dissolves the shells of animals, spelling trouble for oysters, clams and mussels as well as the people that grow them. Increased funding in a tough political environment is a testament to the hard work of all the stakeholders, including you, that weighed in with Congress on the critical importance of addressing this threat.
  • First-ever Ocean Trust Fund – This is something that the ocean conservation community has been working towards for well over a decade. It finally happened thanks to the work of some tenacious champions on Capitol Hill and your support over the years. The existence of this fund has the potential to help work on virtually all ocean issues ranging from protecting marine mammals to climate change resilience. We need to find money to fill the coffers but this is a moment to savor. We achieved something that has taken our community a very long time to get across the finish line.
  • Stronger National Ocean Policy – We are celebrating that all of the anti-National Ocean Policy riders were struck from the final budget deal. The NOP encompasses dozens of programs across the federal government and enables agencies that focus on the ocean to work together. It makes no sense to weaken a policy that helps the government do its work.
  • Marine Mammal Stranding Network – Remember our action alert highlighting this program? Well, the good news is that we know that it was funded in the final deal, despite a risk that it could have been cut.
  • Red snapper disaster averted The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “Scott amendment” that would have defunded and upended red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico was struck from the final budget deal. This is a major win, especially for the red snapper fishermen who worked tirelessly to defeat an amendment that would have been devastating for both fish and fishermen.

One area that raises concern is state boundary for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The omnibus spending bill did include some language changing the state maritime boundary for management of reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This means big confusion and uncertainty for federally-permitted fishermen. And it means big challenges for those responsible for rebuilding this iconic fishery. The Ocean Conservancy team is already working on how to turn that loss around. Expect to see more on that in 2016.

All in all, we should be happy with the outcomes for our ocean. Of course our work is never done, but for this rather wonderful moment in time, please join me in celebrating what we have been able to achieve together.

What a great way to end the year – thank you!

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Ocean Conservancy Supports Red Snapper Recovery and Improved Recreational Fishing http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/16/ocean-conservancy-supports-red-snapper-recovery-and-improved-recreational-fishing/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/16/ocean-conservancy-supports-red-snapper-recovery-and-improved-recreational-fishing/#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2015 19:00:33 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10758

Photo: Ned Deloach / Marine Life Images

For nearly three decades, Ocean Conservancy has been fighting to protect red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. The stock was formally declared as overfished in the late 1980s. Despite this long and rocky road, 2015 has been a landmark year for red snapper—the stock continues to rebuild as a result of shared sacrifices and innovative management strategies.

In April 2015, NOAA approved a management measure that will improve conservation and recreational fishing opportunities in the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. This management measure divides the recreational red snapper quota between charter-for-hire and private recreational fishermen (known as ‘sector separation’ because it splits the recreational sector into two sub-sectors).

Sector separation allows fishery managers to develop individually tailored strategies for the needs of the unique charter-for-hire and private recreational components, which in turn will prevent continued catch-limit overages and foster continued rebuilding of this iconic Gulf species.

Sector separation has paved the way for far greater accountability in the charter-for-hire fishery, which in turn allows for better predictability of fishing seasons and greater access to the fishery as the stock continues to rebuild. The private recreational component stands to reap the same benefits from sector separation as fishery managers continue to develop tools and techniques to increase accountability amongst private recreational anglers and to prevent any future overages in the recreational sector as a whole.

Following approval of sector separation, the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging this critical management action. Last week, we filed an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) brief in the ongoing case. In doing so, Ocean Conservancy weighed in on the side of conservation and angler opportunity. We are asking the court to uphold separate quotas for charter fishermen and private anglers because it is the best way to keep red snapper stocks on the road to recovery.

As Ellen Bolen, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Fish Conservation Program, stated last week:

“Sector separation is a smart conservation decision. It is good for the fishermen and good for the fish. Sector separation will greatly improve the management system, will guard against a return to overfishing, and will enhance rebuilding progress. Ocean Conservancy stands behind the government’s decision.”

We are urging the court to uphold sector separation in the recreational red snapper fishery. A reversal could threaten the rebuilding plan and cripple further improvements to the fishery that could bring better access for anglers while protecting the marine ecosystem.

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Red Snapper Season Starts June 1: Not All Smooth Sailing http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/29/red-snapper-season-starts-june-1-not-all-smooth-sailing/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/29/red-snapper-season-starts-june-1-not-all-smooth-sailing/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 18:44:03 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10278

Photo: Ned Deloach / Marine Life Images

Anglers all over the Gulf of Mexico will spend their weekend getting ready for Monday, June 1,  the first day of the 2015 Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishing season. Thanks to the hard work of fishermen, managers and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, fishermen will be able to catch more red snapper this year than the past 8 years.  While we are seeing increases in the allowable catch of red snapper, recreational fishermen have witnessed red snapper fishing seasons shrink year after year. This year the private boat-owning public can fish for a short 10 days while anglers fishing with charter-for-hire captains get 44 days. The charter-for-hire season is a solid increase over the 2014 season, which allowed only 9 fishing days for both components of the recreational fishing sector, but the short 10-day private recreational remains problematic. While there is no arguing that the longer charter-for-hire fleet is fantastic news for captains and their charters, the short private boat-owner’s season illustrates the need for management innovation for the private recreational fishing component that will help anglers access and enjoy the fruits of a healthy and growing Gulf red snapper population.

Federal managers must manage the Gulf’s red snapper as a total body from the beach to the edge of U.S. territorial waters, even as the individual gulf states increase their anglers’ access in their territorial waters by lengthening state-water seasons. Federal managers must account for the states’ longer state-water seasons when setting federal days, therefore being forced by the states’ actions to shorten federal-water fishing to limit the risk of jeopardizing the Gulf red snapper’s rebuilding progress. The states’ actions makes managing the red snapper’s rebuilding plan much more challenging and forces anglers to place more pressure on state-water fisheries. Managing red snapper consistently across state and federal waters makes sense, since fish do not respect political borders, swimming freely throughout their range regardless of state- or federal-water boundaries.

Though fish do not have to respect borders, anglers do. Inconsistent state seasons lead to an inequality in the recreational fishery that left the non-boat-owning public that uses the federally permitted charter-for-hire fleet to access red snapper for only the 9 days that federal waters were open, while the private boat-owning public was able to enjoy their longer state-water seasons plus the days available in federal waters. The inequality faced by the charter fleet and its anglers also threatened the coastal communities that thrive on healthy tourism economies that are serviced by the charter fleet.

Fortunately, for the general public that uses the charter-for-hire fleet to access red snapper and for our coastal communities and their economies, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council adopted an amendment called Sector Separation that splits the recreational red snapper fishery into two subcomponents: the charter-for-hire fleet and the private boat owning public. Sector Separation allows each subcomponent the ability to develop management measures that ensure each sub-sector is not exceeding its share of the recreational quota. This is great news for the resource and the general public that uses the charter fleet that gets 44 days since there is a limited number of federally permitted boats servicing a large number of anglers. But unfortunately, as the states continue increasing state-water seasons, their actions create a perceived inequity for the private boat-owning public that watches their federal-water access remain stagnant or shrink because of a lack of innovative and accountable, component-specific management tools.

The perceived inequity between the two recreational components can be remedied with new approaches to private management.

If the private component is to enjoy longer federal-water seasons, exploring new management ideas for its anglers is essential. More comprehensive data collection for recreational anglers can improve accountability and prevent the sector from exceeding its allowable catch, but other solutions should be addressed, too, beginning with state consistency that would allow greater federal-water access for all anglers and allowing managers the stability to place durable and resilient private angler management tools into place. Improved accountability in the private recreational fishery is the first step to more days on the water for anglers and more fish in coolers for all, while ensuring that red snapper rebuilding efforts continue to be successful.

Tight lines to any and all targeting red snapper!

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Gulf Leaders Hit the Mark on Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/11/17/gulf-leaders-hit-the-mark-on-restoring-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/11/17/gulf-leaders-hit-the-mark-on-restoring-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 02:10:20 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9526

Photo: NOAA

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we blog about many issues—some are calls to action, some are educational, but this one is a call to celebrate! Today, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced more than $99.2 million for 25 restoration projects across the Gulf of Mexico.

The best part of this news is that Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have chosen to invest in projects that will restore the Gulf beyond the shore. These projects will provide much-needed funding to:

As detailed in Ocean Conservancy’s booklet Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore, we are a major champion for projects that restore the offshore species in the Gulf, as well as the underwater habitats that they call home.


We believe it is important to invest in the recovery of these animals that spend much of their lives offshore because the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began in the deep water of the Gulf. The coastal and marine environments are two halves of a single whole, and restoration of one will be incomplete without the other.

We extend a hearty handshake to the folks at NFWF and to our state leaders for recognizing this intrinsic connection. We also commend NFWF and the states for taking a regional, ecosystem approach by funding restoration projects across multiple states and funding streams, so that these projects build on each other to create a comprehensive, integrated restoration effort. It’s so important to leverage the fines from BP and other responsible partners so that restoration of the Gulf is larger than the sum of its parts.

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Good News For Gulf Fishermen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/29/good-news-for-gulf-fishermen/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/29/good-news-for-gulf-fishermen/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:42:23 +0000 J.P. Brooker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9423

The prognosis for the long-term recovery of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico brightened considerably last Thursday with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s passage of a measure known as “Amendment 40”—also known to fishermen as “Sector Separation.” Amendment 40 will allow separate management of private recreational anglers and for-hire charter vessels that fish for red snapper.

Although the red snapper fishery in the Gulf is managed as a single stock, the reality is that fishermen from the Florida Keys to South Texas face different situations and fish for different reasons. A for-hire captain who takes customers out of Southwest Florida and deep into federal waters may have a different set of concerns or needs than the weekend recreational angler who has a boat and likes to go red snapper fishing with friends and family but might not venture far from their home marina in the Florida Panhandle, Louisiana, or Texas. It is because of these vastly different situations among fishermen that a new management strategy was needed to address individual concerns, while also ensuring that conservation and rebuilding of the stock remains paramount.

The problem has been made worse by the fact that the science-based recreational quota for red snapper landings has been exceeded every year for twelve of the past fifteen seasons, often by hundreds of thousands of pounds. If this continues, we will jeopardize the efforts to rebuild this valuable fishery and conservation measures to end overfishing will be undermined.

Amendment 40 allows for management strategies that are better tailored to the individual needs of fishermen. Private recreational anglers will get the majority share, or 56 percent of the allocation, which will ultimately result in a season that is managed and designed with their unique needs and concerns in mind. The remaining 44 percent is reserved for members of the public who don’t own a boat and hire guides to take them out on the water. This will enable these charter captains to better schedule fishing days for their clients as their season becomes more predictable and stable.

This new approach to red snapper management is the result of nearly seven years of work. Numerous alternatives were developed and discussed at council meetings and public hearings around the Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of written and spoken comments in favor of Amendment 40 were received by the council from fishermen, charter-for-hire captains, environmental groups, and concerned citizens from across the country.

Last week’s decision represents a practical and levelheaded solution that balances the needs of this ecologically and economically important reef fish and the sometimes competing demands and needs of an increasingly growing fishing public.  Amendment 40’s passage shows how the process can work successfully on behalf of all stakeholders, from fishery managers to fish conservationists to on-the-water fishermen. And, of course, the fish.

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