Clarifying Information about the Council & Other Hot Topics
We’ve received a lot of questions and comments following the announcement about the 2018 red snapper season, so we thought it might be beneficial to provide some further explanation. If you have any questions about the following information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Question 1: Do Council members fish?
- The makeup of the Council includes fishermen from the recreational and commercial sectors along with state marine resource agency staff and federal agency representatives. So, Council members do fish!
- Here’s a list of current voting Council Members serving on the South Atlantic Council. Click on each of their names to learn more about them. They fish – some professionally, some not. But among many of their differences remains the single truth that each of these individuals comes equipped with a high level of experience in fisheries.
- Charlie Phillips (GA-fisherman)
- Anna Beckwith (NC-fisherman)
- Mel Bell (SC-state agency)
- Zack Bowen (GA-fisherman)
- Chester Brewer (FL-fisherman)
- Chris Conklin (SC-fisherman)
- Tim Griner (NC-fisherman)
- Ben Hartig (FL-fisherman)
- Doug Haymans (GA-state agency)
- Jessica McCawley (FL-state agency)
- Stephen Poland (NC-state agency)
- Roy Crabtree (NMFS representative)
- Each state (NC, SC, GA, & FL) has three representatives – right now all states except SC has 1 commercial, 1 recreational, and one state agency representative. SC has one vacant seat.
*Note: Three new Council Members will be joining us in mid-August to fill the seats of outgoing Council members Charlie Phillips, Zack Bowen, and Ben Hartig. The bios of Kyle Chistiansen (GA), Spud Woodward (GA), and Art Sapp (FL) will be available on our website when their terms begin on August 11th. Steve Poland is the new state designee from NC and his bio will be posted when available. In addition, Mark Brown resigned his appointment on the Council effective July 24th; a new member will be appointed as soon as possible through a process very similar to the normal Council appointment process.
Question 2: Why does it seem that commercial fishermen are favored in red snapper decisions?
- Sometimes folks get bogged down in the number of days or number of fish vs. pounds associated with allocations. And truthfully, that’s understandable. It can be difficult to track. But here’s how it all shakes out.
- Recreational: 29,656 fishapproximately 319,840 pounds
- Commercial:approximately12,854 fish and124,815 pounds
- The recreational fishery will be tracked in number of fish and commercial will be tracked in pounds of fish.
- Some things to keep in mind:
- Commercial fishermen are required to report their catch. Their season may not last until December 31, 2018. The commercial fishery will close when the commercial catch meets or is projected to meet the Commercial Annual Catch Limit or on December 31, 2018.
- Additionally, the commercial trip limit is 75 pounds per trip. That doesn’t give commercial fishermen much incentive to target them. Rather, it’s more likely they’ll retain those fish as incidental catch when targeting other species.
- Headboats are currently required to report their catch so we do have a better handle on their catches.
- The number of private recreational fishermen targeting snapper grouper species is not known. And in the absence of requirements to report catch, this makes it hard to track how many fish are harvested by recreational fishermen during a mini-season and throughout the year. So, we have to rely on Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) sampling efforts and state sampling efforts to fill in the blanks about private recreational and charter catches. We won’t know how many were caught until all the recreational data from MRIP and state samplers are analyzed. Data from the 2018 mini-season likely won’t be ready for review until 2019.
- NMFS has a formula to estimate the amount of anticipated fishing effort with the amount of fish available to harvest to determine how many days the season can be open. This is part of the rationale for a mini-season. If we have six days of great weather, it is reasonable that 29,656 fish could be harvested by recreational snapper grouper fishermen (which includes charter boats and headboats) in the South Atlantic (NC, SC, GA, & East FL).
Question 3: Why doesn’t the science match up with what fishermen are seeing on the water?
- Results from fishery independent studies (those conducted by scientists only), actually support what you’re seeing on the water – there are a lot of red snapper out there. The science shows that there has been an exponential increase in the number of red snapper in the South Atlantic. That’s good news!
- The question isn’t whether or not there are a lot of red snapper. The question is whether there is evidence of a strong enough range of different aged fish surviving to enter or stay in the fishery in order to support harvest.
- We need to see different ages of fish in a population for a healthy fishery - both big fish and small fish. And since red snapper life history is so unusual (they can begin reproducing at age 2 and live to be 50 years old), understanding the age structure can be challenging. But fishery independent studies, coupled with studies using fishery dependent data (data collected from fishermen - commercial reports, dockside intercepts, surveys, etc.), can give us a better snapshot of what the red snapper population actually looks like.
- The observations from scientists and fishermen are on the same page.
- To make sure we get the best data for management, please continue to collaborate with data collectors. State samplers will be in the field during the mini-seasons and it is critical that you cooperate and allow them to observe, measure, and sample your catch. Each and every one of us, managers and stakeholders alike, has need for better and more timely data.
This was a lot of information. But we felt it was important to answer some of the concerns and questions we’ve encountered in the last few weeks. Need more info? Visit our website or give us a call. We’re happy to help.