Limited Red Snapper Fishing Season Along Southeastern Coast Pending Federal Decision


On Wednesday, June 13, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will meet in Orlando to begin a week-long series of discussions about Atlantic red snapper. Federal officials are deciding whether to ease restrictions – on a limited basis – on red snapper fish in the Atlantic Ocean.

Since January 2010, a ban on red snapper has been in effect for offshore waters from Florida to North Carolina. The fish was banned to meet requirements of a federal law that requires agencies to protect a species from being overfished. Based on a recommendation from federal scientists, a rebuilding plan was adopted.

Some say the ban is unnecessary and that it’s causing a huge economic loss for the fishing industry along the coast.

David Nelson of Reel Deal Offshore Fishing Charters out of Ponce Inlet, Florida is among the people who say the ban is arbitrary. He says that because there is no snapper season, it is difficult to gauge exactly how many of the fish are actually available. Currently, the only data comes from snapper accidentally caught and killed in the past two years. On Wednesday, Nelson is scheduled to speak to the Council to discuss his concerns about the science.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will present the Council’s snapper/grouper committee with three possible options for the red snapper:

  • Keep the ban in place.
  • An emergency rule to reopen snapper fishing for both recreational and commercial fisherman for a limited time. For example, fishing for red snapper would only be allowed on a weekend or two, while there would be strict bag and trip limits.
  • Allow states and agencies to exempt the ban for tournaments or other similar activities where anglers are selected by a lottery. Yet again, strict requirements for reporting all snapper caught would be in place.

A decision on any of the above options could be made as early as Friday, although any decision by the Council on the snapper ban will have to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which could take at least two months.

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