Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved an amendment to address overfishing of red snapper and rebuild the South Atlantic stock during its meeting in Orlando earlier today. Measures include a continuation of the closure of the red snapper fishery for both commercial and recreational fishermen in federal waters in the South Atlantic and a new area closure off of northeastern Florida and southern Georgia, where fishing for all snapper grouper species in water depths of 98 - 240 feet would be prohibited. Fishing for pelagic species such as tuna, dolphin, and billfish would be allowed within the area. Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan was approved by the Council in a split vote (9 to 4) for submission to the Secretary of Commerce. The amendment will undergo further review by NOAA Fisheries Service before submission to the Secretary. The amendment is designed to meet the requirements of the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act to end overfishing and rebuild stocks within a specified time period.
After reviewing public comment and the management alternatives, the Council modified the area closure for snapper grouper species, reducing the closed area by eliminating much of the previously proposed area off the coast of Georgia. The proposed closure encompasses federal waters where red snapper landings are highest. The area closure is designed to help eliminate release mortality for red snapper that occurs when fishermen target other co-occurring snapper grouper species.
If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, management measures in Amendment 17A will likely be implemented later this year. A new stock assessment is being conducted for red snapper in the South Atlantic and the results will be presented to the Council in December 2010. The Council will consider adjusting management measures following the stock assessment if warranted.
The Council will continue to meet this week in Orlando, Florida. Information about the meeting, including a link to a live video feed is available online at www.safmc.net.