The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted this week to approve a slight increase in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper 2021 annual catch limit, but requested its scientific review committee to revisit its catch level recommendations that largely ignored the groundbreaking results of the Great Red Snapper Count (GRSC).
Despite the GRSC finding that Gulf red snapper are three times more abundant than previously estimated, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) opted to not include any of the results of the GRSC in its acceptable biological catch (ABC) recommendation to the Council. While the Gulf Council accepted the ABC and overfishing limit recommendations, it requested that the SSC review red snapper catch advice for 2021 and beyond as soon as the GRSC final report and additional information can be considered.
In addition, the Council voted to resolve differences in federal and state data collection estimates, which will have the practical effect of reducing the Alabama and Mississippi quotas by approximately 50 percent and 60 percent, respectively. However, this action will not go into effect until January 2023, allowing “status quo” on the state allocations for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. A full stock assessment is expected in 2023.
“While we are relieved that the Gulf Council’s actions will largely keep private recreational fishing regulations stable for 2021, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Kellie Ralston, Southeast Fisheries Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association. “We remain concerned that, by ignoring the GRSC, the SSC set an incredibly conservative ABC limit.
“In addition, the action to calibrate the more precise and timely state surveys with the federal survey puts the future of state management, and all the benefits it has provided for recreational fishing, at risk. A lot of work must be done over the coming months and years to rectify the continued disconnect between overly precautionary management decisions and the clear abundance of Gulf red snapper,” said Ralston.