NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Administrator, Roy Crabtree, will host a teleconference today, Thursday, January 9 from noon until 2 p.m. (EST) to discuss various topics relating to Gulf of Mexico red snapper.

In their coastwide bulletin early this week, NOAA Fisheries announced that the discussion will focus on the 2014 fishing season, current options being considered by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council for the 2015 season, and how you can get involved in the process.

“We want to have an informal conversation, answer your questions about management options and hear your thoughts about ways to improve red snapper management in the future,” is how NOAA Fisheries describes the conference call.

Those interested in participating in the discussion on red snapper can dial in to the conference line at 800-369-2115 and use the password RED SNAPPER.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) encourages anglers to participate in the conference call, as well as the ongoing series of Recreational Angler Participation (RAP) sessions being coordinated this month throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said the ‘rap’ against NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has often been that managers won’t listen to saltwater anglers, and he’s urging more anglers to participate in these phone-in and public sessions to remind officials that we’re not going away.

“Time and time again saltwater anglers in the Gulf of Mexico have spoken out against sector separation which pits private anglers against the for-hire sector, and yet NOAA Fisheries with the Gulf Council’s help, has just implemented a catch share plan for recreational red snapper that employs fish tags on a small group of headboats,” Donofrio said.

“NOAA Fisheries said this is not a fish tag program and it’s not meant to implement individual fishing quota amongst individual anglers, but it’s precisely what this new pilot program does,” Donofrio added. “Perhaps our Gulf anglers haven’t been vocal enough in these phone conferences and RAP sessions.”

Learn more about the red snapper pilot program that takes 5% of the overall recreational quota of red snapper away from the entire sector to award the 17 participating headboats at the Destin Log’s website.

Capt. Tom Adams of the RFA’s Forgotten Coast Chapter and a charter captain out of Mexico Beach, FL argues that the pilot program is already flawed in the weight allowance for those participating boats. “They counted these red snapper as only weighing 5 pounds on average when we all know that the red snapper in federal waters are easily 10 to 15 pounds, even up to 30 pounds or more,” Capt. Adams said, noting “What will happen to our recreational red snapper season if these 17 boats catch their 55,000 red snapper in the 15-pound range, it will have to come off our regular season.”

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet again from February 3-7 in Houston, TX. The regional ‘RAP’ sessions got underway last night in Mississippi at the Gulf Research Lab in Ocean Springs, and continue tonight at Spanish Port, AL followed by sessions in Texas, Florida and Louisiana.

“Get involved, show up at a meeting or at the least call in,” Capt. Adams advised.

Visit the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council website at www.gulfcouncil.org.

Logo courtesy Recreational Fishing Alliance

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