The Gulf Angler Focus Group Initiative
Despite widespread dissatisfaction in the recreational-fishing community with the way Gulf of Mexico red snapper are managed, federal fishery managers have no alternative plans waiting in the wings.
With the goal of examining alternative management strategies that could be used to determine red snapper regulations, an unprecedented focus group met throughout 2016.
The Gulf Angler Focus Group Initiative was established “to explore improved management options for the conservation and public enjoyment of Gulf of Mexico red snapper.”
This week, that unprecedented report will be shared with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council at its February meeting. The focus group met bimonthly throughout 2016, and involved representatives of angler organizations, private anglers, for-hire operators and recreational-fishing-industry members in consultation with fisheries managers from all five Gulf states. The group’s report will present seven options.
The report emphasizes that it is not attempting to offer recommendations, but rather identifies “several potential management options based on current and available information that may warrant further analysis and review by fisheries managers.”
Seven Strategies for Managing Gulf Red Snapper
The seven options for managing Gulf red snapper identified by the group:
- Status quo
- Maximizing fishing days within current framework
- Harvest Tags
- Depth/Distance-Based Management
- Reef Fish Season
- Harvest Rate/Recruitment-Based Management
- Hybrid (incorporating two or more plans above)
The group has identified specific pros and cons in bulleted lists for each option. However, it concludes: “A lack of sufficient data and analyses in many areas creates inherit uncertainty in the social, economic and conservation impacts of any red snapper management options. While some options may have more potential to improve fishing access than others, none appear to be a panacea.”
The report will be presented by Ken Haddad, representing the American Sportfishing Association (one of five angler organizations participating in the focus group). Haddad’s Power Point presentation can be viewed at the Gulf Council web site. The full report is also available there.