Karla Gore, spokesperson for the Southeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service, has announced to Historic City News that effective January 4, 2010, all recreational and commercial harvest of red snapper in Atlantic federal waters is prohibited.
This interim rule will be effective until June 2, 2010 and could be extended for another 186-day period.
“The red snapper population in the Atlantic Ocean has been shown to be low and undergoing an excessive fishing rate according to the recent stock assessment completed in early 2008”, Gore said.
Federal regulations mandate that these conditions require action to substantially reduce the level of harvest.
For months, fishing captains and others invested in the industry have fought the ban, arguing that a ban on fishing for the popular red snapper would slow charters to the point that some charter operators would no longer be able to afford their operations.
Charter fishing is an important draw for the St. Augustine and St. Johns County area of northeast Florida according to the St. Johns County Visitors & Convention Bureau. Endless Summer Charters reports that they are offering guests who purchase a 4 or 6 hour fishing trip a discount of $50 off of the cost of the trip. Other Atlantic fishing charters are doing the same and expect the new rules to result in even deeper discounts over the next few months.
Interviews with news reporters have included complaints made by charter captains, fishermen, bait shop operators, marinas, fuel stations and hotels — all of which expect to be negatively affected.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is also in the process of developing its Amendment 17 to the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan which includes permanent management measures for red snapper and 9 other reef fish species.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that they will “monitor and actively participate” in these deliberations and may address any potential regulation changes for state waters following final Council and NOAA Fisheries Service actions.
Effective July 29, 2009, recreational and commercial fishers in Atlantic federal waters off Florida are required to use dehooking devices when fishing for reef fish, including red snapper.
Consistent regulations go into effect in state waters of the Atlantic January 19, 2010. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reef fish gear rules page for more information.