Frequently Asked Questions - Red Snapper

Prepared by FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management – May 2014

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Who manages red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages red snapper in state waters (from shore out to 9 nautical miles in the Gulf).

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) manages red snapper in federal waters (beyond 9 nautical miles) off the Gulf coast of Florida and federal waters off of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The FWC has a strong interest in how fisheries are managed in federal waters and how that management affects Floridians. FWC staff serves on the Gulf Council and coordinates with other Gulf states and NOAA Fisheries to improve fisheries management.

NOAA Fisheries reviews regulation recommendations from the Gulf Council and decides whether or not to approve the regulations as an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

What is the recreational harvest season for red snapper in Gulf federal waters (beyond 9 nautical miles from shore)?

The 2014 federal recreational season for red snapper in Gulf waters is June 1 through June 9. The bag limit will remain 2-fish per person per day.

Why was the 2014 federal season shortened from 40 days to nine days?

Recently, NOAA Fisheries was sued over the management of the recreational component of the red snapper fishery. The Court ruled that NOAA Fisheries failed to require adequate accountability measures to ensure the recreational quota was not exceeded. The court also found NOAA Fisheries failed to use the best scientific information available by not including the 2013 Marine Recreational Information Program data in the data used to project the length of the fall 2013 supplemental recreational red snapper season in federal waters.

In response to the lawsuit, NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf Council were required to take action to prevent the recreational sector from exceeding its quota in 2014 and beyond.  For 2014, the Gulf Council established a 20% buffer on the 5.39 million pound recreational quota. The 20% buffer results in a recreational annual catch target of 4.312 million pounds.  The season length was also re-calculated using 2013 Marine Recreational Information Program data in response to the Court’s ruling.

The updated federal season calculations also take into account inconsistent seasons in state waters of Florida, Texas and Louisiana. By law, NOAA Fisheries must close the red snapper fishery when the recreational quota is projected to be met. All of these considerations combined result in a nine-day red snapper recreational season for 2014.

What is the season for red snapper harvest in Gulf state waters in 2014?

The Gulf recreational red snapper season in state waters will be a total of 52 days in 2014 and will start the Saturday before Memorial Day (May 24 this year) and remain open through July 14, closing on July 15. The FWC set this season April 16 at a meeting near Tallahassee.

Why did the FWC select a 52-day recreational season for Gulf state waters?

The Saturday before Memorial Day state recreational season opening was proposed by the Commission at the November 2013 Commission meeting to increase harvest opportunities for anglers over a holiday weekend. Starting the season the Saturday before Memorial Day balances the economic and social needs of Florida’s recreational anglers with the conservation needs of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Federal recreational season lengths for red snapper in the Gulf have been decreasing since 2008, resulting in decreased fishing opportunities.

Can charter and for-hire vessels harvest red snapper during the May 24 through July 14 state season?

Federal lawprohibitsfor-hire vessels that have a federal charter/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish from harvesting red snapper in state waters when federal waters are closed, even if they are fishing in state waters. For-hire vessels that do not have federal reef fish permits would be able to harvest red snapper in state waters during the open season, but they would not be able to harvest red snapper in federal waters, even during the federal June 1-9, 2014, open season.

Why are some headboats (also called party boats) able to keep red snapper and gag grouper outside of the federal season?

A total of 17 vessels throughout the Gulf (including nine from Florida) are part of a two-year federal headboat pilot program. The group of headboats was allocated a percentage of the total recreational red snapper and gag grouper quota to fish throughout the year in order to test an alternative management strategy for the headboat sector. These headboats are still required abide by federal size limit and bag limit restrictions, and are prohibited from harvesting gag grouper seaward of 20 fathoms during the February through March Gulf closure. Once NOAA Fisheries determines that the total Gulf recreational red snapper quota has been met, these headboats must stop harvesting red snapper for the remainder of the year. Learn more.

During the May 24 through July 14 state season for Gulf red snapper, can I harvest red snapper in federal waters when federal waters are closed and land them in Florida?

No. Harvest and possession of red snapper in federal waters would only be permitted when federal waters are open. When red snapper are closed in federal waters, red snapper can only be harvested in open state waters. It would be illegal to harvest red snapper in federal waters from May 24 through May 30 and June 10 through July 14 (and the rest of the year), regardless of where they are landed.

During the May 24 through July 14 state season for Gulf red snapper, can I harvest red snapper in open state waters and then fish in federal waters on the same trip?

No. Possession of red snapper in federal waters when federal waters are closed is prima facie evidence to law enforcement that any red snapper on board the vessel were harvested at the location where the vessel is stopped (in this case, federal waters).

Will the May 24 through July 14 state season for Gulf red snapper further affect the 2014 recreational red snapper season in federal waters?

No. The 9-day federal recreational season for red snapper approved by the Gulf Council already takes into account the 52-day recreational season in Gulf state waters.  

Why wasn’t the commercial red snapper season shortened?

Recreational and commercial red snapper fisheries are managed differently because commercial and recreational harvesters fish in different areas, target different species and use different fishing techniques. Commercial red snapper harvesters in the Gulf do not have a "season" like recreational anglers have. Instead, they are strictly regulated and monitored under a federal Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) system in which each harvester is only allowed to harvest a certain amount of red snapper per year. When commercial harvesters catch their quota, they must immediately stop fishing for red snapper.



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