Red Snapper Rule Passed By Council

Media Contact: Marianne Cufone, 813-785-8386, Marianne@healthygulf.orgFor Immediate Release: June 7, 2007Groups Applaud New Measures to Restore Red SnapperNew Orleans, Louisiana: Conservation groups the Gulf Restoration Network and the Sierra Club applaud some recommendations made today by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to help end overfishing, reduce bycatch and rebuild the long depleted red snapper population. The new rules include: Reducing the total annual catch from 9.12 million pounds to 5.0, lowering the commercial size limit from 15 inches to 13, lowering the recreational bag limit from 4 fish per person to 2, setting a recreational fishing season, eliminating captains and crew members from taking the daily recreational bag limit of fish on for-hire boats (charter and headboats), and requiring the use of circle hooks, venting and de-hooking tools to reduce bycatch.The Gulf Restoration Network has followed red snapper management since the 1990s. Their fisheries consultant, Marianne Cufone, said, “After many years of simply refusing to develop meaningful regulations to rebuild red snapper, the Council finally looked at the big picture, addressing many problems across various involved fisheries. Using an ecosystem-based approach, the Council took some important steps today that should at last help bring back one of the Gulf of Mexico’s most popular fish.”Red snapper’s popularity is also the fish’s downfall; as a primary seafood choice throughout the Gulf, it is a favorite catch for both sport anglers and commercial fishermen. The annual allowed take is split 49% recreational – 51% commercial. While the recommended measures seem to mark a new era in Gulf fisheries management, red snapper have been severely depleted for many years due to past Council failures to put in reasonable limitations. Scientists first identified red snapper as severely overfished in 1989, and current studies indicate that the reproducing population is at just 3% of what it was historically.”For nearly two decades, federal managers bent to political pressures and ignored the advice of scientists, setting catch levels too-high and allowing too many fish to be caught and killed as bycatch,” said Leslie March of the Sierra Club, “That’s why the Council had to now recommend such severe restrictions.”Aaron Viles, Campaign Director for the Gulf Restoration Network said, “Red snapper is THE example of how not to manage a fishery. Hopefully the outcome here is a lesson learned for future fisheries management, but we’ll have to wait and see.”Old habits die hard though, and even as the rule was finalized the Council added in an assumed 10% reduction in effort to catch red snapper attributed to hurricane impacts, without any credible scientific information and approved an increase in bycatch over time for the shrimp trawl fishery after initial reductions. “This is the typical shenanigans that put us where we are today on red snapper…requiring drastic measures to get the population back to a healthy level,” Cufone said. “I’m disappointed.”While the Council did take some important steps today, their actions were not entirely based on concern for the fishery. Helping to motivate the Council to finalize some meaningful regulations after more than 18 years of failed management was a lawsuit filed by the Gulf Restoration Network and the Ocean Conservancy. A judge decided in March 2007 that a rebuilding plan for red snapper needed to be in place by Dec 31, 2007.Now that red snapper has been adequately addressed, the groups look forward to the Council moving on to deal with other important issues.###The Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) is a coalition of environmental, social justice, citizens’ groups and individuals committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the resources of the Gulf of Mexico. We have members in all 5 Gulf States. http://www.healthygulf.orgSierra Club’s members and supporters are more than 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. The Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.