Council Reviews Options for Future Management of Red Snapper

SAFMC logo South Atlantic Fishery Management Council  
News Release  
September 20, 2010 CONTACT: Kim Iverson
Public Information Officer
(843) 571-4366

Council Reviews Options for Future Management of Red Snapper

New stock assessment results due for completion in December may prompt changes in regulations

     Federal fishery managers met last week in Charleston, South Carolina to discuss several amendments currently under development that may impact fishermen in the future who target species such as snapper, grouper, dolphin, and mackerel.  An issue of special interest to both commercial and recreational fishermen is the ongoing closure of the red snapper fishery in the South Atlantic and the possible implementation of a large area closure off the central and northeastern coast of Florida and southern coast of Georgia. Within the proposed area closure, fishing for all snapper grouper species in water depths ranging from 98 feet to 240 feet would be prohibited (with the exception of spearfishing and use of black sea bass pots).

     The red snapper fishery has been closed to all fishermen in South Atlantic federal waters since January 4, 2010 as part of an effort to end overfishing of red snapper and meet the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The interim rule used to close the fishery is set to expire on December 5, 2010. However, new measures proposed in Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan would extend the closure indefinitely, create the new area closure noted above, require the use of non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for snapper grouper species north of 28 degrees N. latitude, and develop a fishery-independent monitoring program to help track the rebuilding and recovery of red snapper.  The amendment is currently under review by NOAA Fisheries Service and a public comment period for Amendment 17A and proposed regulations is open until September 27, 2010.  The final decision for implementation of Amendment 17A will be made by the Secretary of Commerce by October 27, 2010.  If approved, the final rule implementing management measures could be issued as early as December 1, 2010. 

     A new stock assessment is underway for red snapper through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment program.  According to Dr. Roy Crabtree, Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service’s Southeast Regional Office, the preliminary stock assessment indicates more positive findings for the red snapper stock, but he cautioned that the final assessment must go through further review before being presented to the Council in December.  During last week’s meeting, the Council discussed options for modifying the measures in Amendment 17A if the amendment is approved.  It is likely the closure of the red snapper fishery will continue, but modifications may be made to the area closure to reduce the size and configuration or allow fishing for snapper grouper species other than red snapper during a portion of the year.  The Council’s intent is to use the quickest means possible within the management process to implement such changes if they are warranted.  Any necessary changes to regulations will be determined by the Council during its December meeting in New Bern, North Carolina after reviewing the final stock assessment results.

Other Actions
     As management measures for some species in the snapper grouper management complex become more restrictive, there is concern that fishing effort may shift to the commercial golden tilefish and black sea bass fisheries.  The Council is developing management alternatives through Amendment 18A to the Snapper Grouper FMP to help address these concerns, including measures to limit participation in the commercial golden tilefish fishery through the use of an endorsement program, changes to trip limits, and modifications to the fishing year.  Management alternatives are also being developed to limit participation in the black sea bass fishery, reduce bycatch, change the fishing year, and split the quota between seasons.  The amendment will also include measures to improve the accuracy, timing, and quantity of fisheries data. Measures to extend the snapper grouper management unit as far north as New England were removed from the initial Amendment 18 and will be included in Amendment 18B. The Council approved Amendment 18A for public hearings to be held later this fall.  The dates and locations for the hearings will be publicized once they are finalized.

New Chair and Vice-Chair Elected
     The Council elected at-large member, David M. Cupka of Charleston, South Carolina as its new Chairman during last week’s meeting.  Mr. Cupka has served several terms on the Council, including his appointed position as the representative for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Marine Fisheries before his retirement.  He previously served as Chairman of the Council from 1995-1996, and again in 2002-2004.  His election as Chairman gives him the distinction of being the only member of the Council to be elected to serve in that role three separate times.  Dr. Brian Cheuvront, the Council representative for the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries was elected to serve as Vice-Chair.
     The Council will meet again December 6-10, 2010 in New Bern, North Carolina.  Meeting information, including Summary Motions from the September meeting in Charleston, will be posted on the Meeting Information section of the Council’s Web site at as it becomes available.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils, conserves and manages fish stocks from three to 200 miles offshore of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida.


Council Reviews Options for Future Management of Red Snapper