Commissioner N. Gunter Guy February 12, 2014
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
64 N. Union Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36130
Red snapper has been a popular target species for decades among Alabama’s offshore recreational anglers both residents and visitors alike. The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery was considered overfished and undergoing overfishing in the late 1990’s. This status necessitated more stringent regulations which were put into effect at that time. In the early and mid-2000’s these measures appeared to be positively affecting the population. However, recent federal management actions led to ever increasing restrictions which reduced access by Alabama’s recreational anglers as well as those anglers throughout the Gulf of Mexico. These actions were made in part as a result of data used in the stock assessment representing the recreational portion of harvest.
One of the management actions recently implemented by the NMFS was severe reductions in the fishing season length. Shortened seasons have created a derby-style environment whereby anglers feel it is necessary to fish even during times when weather conditions are unfavorable sometimes putting themselves and their passengers at risk. Current recreational data collection involves the use of a survey which is not reliable for estimating harvests of species with short season lengths. This can lead to harvest estimates varying widely from year to year due to weather and inherent survey design factors. In addition, the turnaround time for developing landings estimates using the current survey program can occur a month or more after the season has ended preventing federal fisheries managers from closing the season early if actual catch rates are greater than expected. Large harvest overages may result in reduced quota being available in the following year which could lead to further reductions in season length. The potential also exists that season lengths could continue to increase along with anticipated growth of the population if in-season catches were monitored more closely.
Our organization is committed to healthy coastal fisheries and protecting recreational anglers’ interests. In order to maximize these goals we believe fisheries managers need the best data available. A data collection system whereby all recreational trips with red snapper are counted upon completion of the trip would be a significant improvement over the current system. Not only would this method of data collection be more representative of actual harvest but it would be available within a shorter time period which could promote more efficient management. We hope you will support our desire for improved data collection by requiring mandatory reporting by anglers with red snapper harvest.
Hugh M. Casteix, Jr. Dauphin Island Marina General Manager