Anglers, Spear Fishers, Marina Operators, Charter Captains, Crew, and Scientists in Florida Work Together To Improve Management and Assessment of Atlantic Red Snapper
Find out about the results of the 2017 Red Snapper sampling on the Atlantic coast.
Researchers at FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) rely on recreational anglers and professional captains to help them gather important information about the Atlantic Red Snapper fishery. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council manages the Red Snapper fishery in Atlantic federal waters (beyond 3 nautical miles) off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina; however, the majority of recreational harvest occurs off the east coast of Florida. The Red Snapper stock was determined to be overfished in 2009 and, as the Atlantic population continues to recover, recreational harvest of Red Snapper has only opened for short periods over one to three weekends in recent years. The short seasons provide an opportunity for researchers in Florida to collect biological data from harvested Red Snapper that helps monitor the stock’s recovery. Each day of the Red Snapper season, recreational boating activity is monitored at ocean inlets, and biologists stationed at boat ramps and marinas along Florida’s east coast interview boat parties about their trips offshore and collect biological information from harvested fish. This information is used to provide fishery managers with a precise estimate of the numbers of Red Snapper harvested during the recreational season to ensure fishing is sustainable. The specialized survey for Red Snapper on the east coast of Florida was developed over three years (2012-2014) and was a collaborative effort between researchers from FWRI and fishery managers from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The methods and results were published in 2017 and the article is available from the FWRI library.
Charter vessel operators also work cooperatively with FWRI researchers during the Atlantic Red Snapper season by filling out log sheets and returning them in the mail, providing details about their fishing trips during telephone interviews, and by allowing biologists to collect samples from harvested fish at the dock. Operators of large headboats report their fishing activity year-round to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the vessels are not sampled in Red Snapper surveys conducted by FWRI. Data from all of these surveys are used together to gather more precise information on the numbers of Red Snapper harvested by recreational anglers and spear fishers during the recreational season.
In 2017, the Atlantic Red Snapper season was open two weekends in November; however, poor weather conditions off the east coast of Florida prevented many anglers from fishing. Preliminary data collected by FWRI was shared with federal fishery managers to help with their decision to re-open the season for an additional weekend in December. The additional three days provided anglers a better opportunity to harvest the allowable limit.
Over the nine days that the season was open, anglers fishing from private boats off the east coast of Florida harvested an estimated 5,390 Red Snapper and charter boat anglers harvested an estimated 898 Red Snapper.
Anglers and charter operators allowed researchers to collect biological information from 728 harvested Red Snapper that may be used to determine the size, weight, age, sex and genetic composition of the population. The mean weight of red snapper caught by anglers and spear fishers fishing from private boats was 7 pounds, and fish caught from charter boats averaged 8.8 pounds. A final report from the sampling efforts in Florida during 2017 was provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service, and data will be included in an updated assessment for the Atlantic Red Snapper stock.
During the 2018 Atlantic Red Snapper season, FWRI researchers will once again be asking anglers and charter vessel operators to assist with data collection efforts. Researchers appreciate anglers and captains taking time to participate in surveys and for allowing biologists to sample their catch. The Red Snapper sampling effort on the east coast of Florida is a great example of scientists, anglers, spear fishers, and charter captains working together to collect high quality data to manage Florida’s fisheries.