“I heard red snapper season is closed?” The angry offshore angler’s yell caught me off guard. He was standing at the helm of his 25 Ft. World Cat, waiting at the ramp for a buddy to return with the truck and trailer. “The bottom’s covered up with snapper out there.” Pointing east away from the docks, he continued, “We must’ve released twenty between the two of us. Some of them were hogs; one was maybe eighteen or twenty pounds!”
The Port Canaveral fisherman’s face was crimson and full of puzzlement. I shook my head in agreement and didn’t even try to explain to him the why behind the closure; figured it would have only made him madder.
I don’t know how he knew; I had sat on the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, but he did. Thankfully he and his buddy were gone in five minutes, but not before I heard a couple more not-so-friendly comments drift my way.
The closure of Florida’s 2016 Atlantic Recreational Red Snapper Season makes little sense to me even though I understand the why. I don’t agree with the way we’re approaching the management of recreational red snapper fishing or like that, it has fallen into a damned if we do and damned if we don’t scenario. The reasons for this complicated Catch-22 situation are both bad and maybe, good. Management is twisted and out of balance because the federal government’s Department of Commerce manages red snapper as a commodity. This has played directly into the hands of commercial fishing interest for decades.
It’s bad news for recreational anglers wanting to catch and keep a couple of red snappers and backbreaking news to all the marine-related businesses depending on an influx of the economic benefits connected to an open red snapper season.
You’d think the close season would be an essential tool for rebuilding this valuable fishery. But with so many red snappers dying because of improper released and discard mortality, it will undoubtedly take years to repair this fishery. It is especially difficult because managers are trying to restore year classes between twenty and fifty years old.
Here’s the official word from NOAA on the 2016 Closure:
“In 2013, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council developed, and NOAA Fisheries implemented, a standardized process that specifies harvest may only occur in a given year if total removals (landings plus dead discards) in the previous year were less than the number allowed for population rebuilding. The total removals allowable for 2015 were 114,000 fish. After evaluating landings and discard information for 2015, NOAA Fisheries determined the estimates of total removals were 276,729 fish; therefore, the fishery remains closed in 2016.”
Until recreational anglers learn how to practice correct catch and release of deeper water species or we help implement a different management strategy, you can bet we’re going to see few opportunities for them to take a red snapper from Florida’s Atlantic coast for many years.
A couple of days after the Port Canaveral incident an upset friend texted me, “We were drift fishing on a head boat outside the Port. I couldn’t believe how many red snapper we caught and killed. They were floating everywhere.”