The Pew Charitable Trusts believes a federal decision extending recreational fishing of the Gulf red snapper could lead to overfishing this year, and the organization has the numbers to prove it.
The Gulf red snapper is a popular fish to catch off the Gulf Coast. But in an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the extended recreational fishing season could be a set back to the species’ recovery.
Holly Binns is the organization’s southeast oceans director, and said the extension should have been discussed with scientists.
“I think the most important thing is that any changes to how red snapper management needs to really be guided by science. It’s an important thing because we really need to make sure this species stays on the road to recovery.”
Pew analyzed estimates of red snapper catch rates and projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service. The findings show it is likely that all catches will exceed legally allowed limits by at least 37 percent, and that recreational anglers could take home up to three times as much fish.
Binns said the move by the U.S. Department of Commerce could endanger the snapper.
“Overfishing is just taking fish out of the water faster than they can reproduce,” she said.
“And the concern is that although red snapper have been making a strong recovery, this move by the Department of Commerce, which was done without any public comment and very limited analysis, could lead to a return of overfishing and that could jeopardize the species’ recovery.”
Binns said Pew is discussing the possible negative effects of the extension with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
“We’re asking them to make sure that the next study of this population’s health will include the data from this extended season so we’ll have a full picture of how this could impact the population and any decisions about future management will include that important analysis,” she said.
The 39-day red snapper season started June 16 and is expected to run through Labor Day.