Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Red Snapper Overfishing in the South Atlantic

In a up-to-date study by the Southeast Data, assessment and recap (Sedar), it was considered that red snapper are currently being overfished in the South Atlantic. The results of these findings have been used to bolster calls for increased conservation efforts in the area.

Red snapper populations are currently 3% of the desired size in the Atlantic Ocean and 6% in the Gulf of Mexico according to the National nautical Fisheries Service, the federal division responsible for nautical wildlife management in the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone. Due to these low levels, fishing policies have come to be more stringent in the last few decades. What started as a 12 inch minimum size limit in the South Atlantic in 1983 was vast to a 20 inch size limit in 1992. Today, the 20 inch size limit and a 2 fish per person per day recreational bag are in effect. In the Gulf of Mexico, the current bag is the same as in the South Atlantic, but the size limit is more relaxed at a 16 inch minimum for recreational fishers and a 13 inch minimum for commercial.

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The South Atlantic Fishery management Council, whose jurisdiction only includes the area from North Carolina down the east coast of Florida, recently voted in a 7 to 6 decision to invite that the fishery in federal waters be accomplished for 180 days with a potential 186 day extension. The purpose of this closure is to stop overfishing until more long-term measures can be put into place. The invite is now awaiting approval by the National nautical Fisheries Service.

The habitancy numbers that Sedar compiled were estimated using a whole of analyses together with spawning stock biomass (Ssb) and the whole of red snapper landings. The Ssb is the whole of fish in a habitancy at reproductive maturity, and the landings are the whole of red snapper brought to land. The study estimated that recreational fisheries have a release mortality rate of 40% and industrial fisheries have a release mortality rate of 90%. Because data shows that fishing occurs at greater depths in the Atlantic Ocean, it is improbable that the release mortality rates are lower in the Gulf of Mexico.

These numbers indicate that in addition to the regulations already set on the annual quotas, the release mortalities caused by fishing greatly exceed the limits that would raise a sustainable supply. Some fishermen claim that they are finding as many red snapper as they ever have, but the study by Sedar disagrees.

The current changes will likely only affect the South Atlantic for now. Although a 2005 study accomplished that overfishing is currently occurring in the Gulf of Mexico as well, the two areas are being addressed separately. The Gulf of Mexico regulations are already more lax than those of the South Atlantic, and its current stock appears to be in slightly good shape. However, it is likely that the Gulf of Mexico will see additional regulations in the future.

Red Snapper Overfishing in the South Atlantic

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