Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council raises Red Snapper catch limit

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 8:37 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Great Red Snapper Count has concluded and the population of snapper in the Gulf is now estimated to be three times larger than previous studies suggested.

As a result, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has issued new guidance for the 2021 Red Snapper season. The overfishing limit has been set at 25.6 million pounds, while the acceptable biological catch, or ABC, has been set at 15.4 million pounds. As far as the ABC is concerned, this is a 300,000 pound increase, although frankly that just won’t trickle down to the charter industry.

“The 300,000 isn’t very much,” said Captain Bob Zales, president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators. “I mean it sounds like a lot, but in the overall scheme it just isn’t very much. On the commercial side, they get 51% of the increase so they’ll get around a 160,000 pound increase, which will be another trip or two for most of the commercial guys. For the charter sector, our percentage of the other 49% is the least amount.”

According to Zales, the charter increase won’t even equate to a single extra day of the Red Snapper season, at least for this year. More information will be submitted to the Scientific and Statistical Committee later this summer.

“The Great Red Snapper Count itself, the final version of that study won’t be completed until June,” Zales said. “And there’s some other information coming out for the scientists to look at. The council recommended that all this be sent back to the SSC for reconsideration. The earliest that that will happen will probably be sometime in July, could be later.”

Once the SSC has that information, conversations can begin moving forward about possibly extending the Red Snapper season next year.

Zales remains hopeful about the expansion of the season next year.

“So as far as any changes for ’21, I doubt we’ll see anything other than what they’ve already done,” Zales said. “For ’22, we could be looking at some increases in quota for everybody.”

The implications of extending the Red Snapper season include more tourism dollars returning to the local economy.

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