Orlando-June 9, 2010 – Today the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council banned fishing for the 73 species of Snapper and Grouper and closed a 4827square mile area off Florida and Georgia to all fishing. The council had previously declared the species grossly overfished and this action is taken to allow those groundfish stocks to rebuild. Originally the Council planned to close 10,400 sq. miles but reduced that area as a gesture to the fishermen.
Recreational and commercial fishermen were dealt a huge blow by the federal fishery managers vote but, acientific evidence shows they have been overfising those species for more than 40 years and today’s stocks represent only about 3% of what they were originally. While not all snapper and grouper species are overfished, the majority are and they do not have a good release mortality; often dying after being caught in over 100 ft. depths. Since they are found in the same areas, it was necessary to ban all fishing for groundfish in that area. Currently, the fishery is already under an emergency moratorium for no harvest in all South Atlantic waters.
Without Snapper and Grouper, fishermen will fall back on other species including mackerel, amberjack, mahi-mahi and other non groundfish .
Environmental groups praised the council’s decision saying the move was the only way the snapper stocks could be rebuilt in South Atlantic waters. The vote was needed because of the wording of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, reauthorized in 2007, states that any fishery defined as overfished or experiencing overfishing must receive measures to stop it and rebuild the stocks.
The move was criticized by many fishermen who claim it will put charter and party boat operators out of business and hurt other businesses that depend on recreational fishing in coastal communities, already hurt by the lagging economy. Many of them also maintain the snapper fishing has never been better and has been improving for the past decade or more – completely ignoring the scientific evidence to the contrary.
A new Red Snapper stock assessment is underway and should be finished in December and, the Council could then make adjustments to the long-term plan just voted, based on it’s results. It will take several months for the long-term plan to take effect because it now must be reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Secretary of Commerce.
The South Atlantic Council deserves much credit for taking a significant step toward puttine snapper and grouper stocks on the road to recovery in the face of tremendous pressure put on them by fisheries groups and some regional congressmen over the past six months. They voted 9-4 in favor of the plan and closure.
Bill Hubbard © – On the Indian River Lagoon – Jun 9, 2010