Pensacola, Florida
Saturday November 1st 2014

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Buzz: Plenty Fish?


By Jeremy Morrison

With state and federal officials currently hashing out this season’s red snapper regulations, the Escambia County Commission weighed in this month and passed a resolution in support of regional management. The move was spurred by local discontent with the red snapper regulations.

“We’ve got more snapper out there than we’ve had in years,” said Commissioner Grover Robinson, “yet we’re actually shrinking our season more and more each year, which doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

The 2013 red snapper season has not yet been set. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is currently developing this year’s specifics via a series of scoping meetings—the 2012 season was a total of 46 days in both federal and state waters.

“This has gone so far overboard, it is unbelievable,” said Escambia County Interim Administrator George Touart. “There is plenty fish.”

Red snapper fishing is regulated in an effort to build a larger mature regulation. Mature snapper—the fish can live up to 50 years—reproduce at a much higher rate than juveniles.

“People say, ‘Oh yeah, there are tons of red snapper out there.’ And there are, but there are tons of juvenile red snapper out there,” Amanda Nalley, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explained last summer. “One 24-inch female produces as many eggs as 212 17-inch females.”

The resolution passed by the Escambia County Commission is a show of support for regional management. It also suggests that each state’s allotment of the federal limit of 4.146 million pounds be determined by the abundance of the state’s snapper population.

“Essentially, if the region has 50 percent of the red snapper in their water they would get 50 percent of the harvest,” Robert Turpin, of the county’s Marine Resource Division, explained to commissioners.

Turpin also said that the commission’s attention to one way regional management would play into the overall gulf. Regardless of harvests or regulations within individual regions, the federal limit would apply collectively.

“There is a danger, I feel compelled to note,” Turpin said, “that any over harvest in any of the regions that would achieve that 4.146 million would shut the entire fishery, so any region that had not yet met their goal would be shut down prematurely and I think that’s a substantial danger that we should all acknowledge if we decide to move forward.”

Commissioner Robinson said he expected other counties to follow suit with similar shows of support for regional management. Escambia’s resolution also endorses managing harvest via rolling closed areas, establishing a 10-year sunset on regional management and including artificial reefs in determining regional red snapper abundance.

“I was diving with Robert a few weeks ago,” Commission Chairman Gene Valentino relayed during the resolution discussion, “and we were diving down in 60 feet of water and it was like a cloud of snapper. They were all over, so they’re plentiful.”

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