NOAA Fisheries is looking for solutions to reduce red snapper discards in the South Atlantic Ocean

NOAA Fisheries is looking for solutions to reduce red snapper discards in the South Atlantic Ocean

On February 12, 2024, NOAA Fisheries. It recommended five projects with funding totaling $879,211 to explore new and innovative approaches to understanding and reducing dead discards of red snapper and increasing fishing opportunities in the South Atlantic grouper fishery.

NOAA Fisheries recognizes that recreational and commercial fishermen, fishery managers, and other stakeholders face challenges and frustrations due to short fishing seasons for red snapper and high levels of dead discards. The most recent assessments of red snapper populations in the South Atlantic indicate that the stock is recovering but is experiencing very high mortality due to the number of fish being discarded and subsequently dying. We have identified the need to consider effective alternative management strategies that reduce dead returns to improve the status of grouper stocks, including red snapper, and better optimize the social and economic benefits of grouper fisheries.

In September 2023, NOAA’s Fisheries Service requested proposals under a Notice of financing opportunity For projects that explore new approaches to better understand and reduce dead discards of red snapper and increase catch opportunities in the South Atlantic snapper and grouper fisheries. Proposals are being accepted from September 7 through November 20, 2023. NOAA’s Fisheries Service recommends funding for the following five projects, for a total of $879,211.

Projects receiving funding-

Project 1: Testing innovative management strategies with FWC’s hotspot pilot fleet off Northeast Florida to reduce red snapper/grouper discards and improve angler satisfaction.. The project is funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and they will receive $244,644.

Project 2: Testing innovative management strategies with the FWC Southeast Florida Snapper-Grouper fleet to reduce red snapper/other discards and improve angler satisfaction. A project by the Florida Fish and Wildlife CommissionThey will receive $178,814.

Project 3: Testing management strategies with FWC’s entire red snapper retention study fleet off northeast Florida to reduce discards of other red snapper/groupers and improve angler satisfaction.. The project is funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and they will receive $97,404.

Project 4: South Carolina charter description and special recreational red snapper fishing behavior, catch composition and disposition. The project is funded by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and they will receive $209,683.

Project 5: Portable electronic monitoring systems – an innovative technological data collection approach in the South Atlantic recreational fishery. A project from Mote Marine Laboratory, Inc., they will receive $148,666.

At this stage of the process, project approval and commitment are not final. A funding recommendation is neither a permit to begin work on the project nor a guarantee of funding. Applications must undergo final review and processing before the award is approved and issued. If funded, NOAA Fisheries expects project funds to be available in the spring of 2024.

Researchers may need an exempt fishing permit from NOAA Fisheries to allow fishing activities that would otherwise be prohibited (e.g., keeping fish under minimum size limits). In the coming months, the public will be given the opportunity to comment on queries that will be exempt from some regulations. All studies will require cooperation and participation from private recreational fishers and charter vessel captains. Through this collaborative work, NOAA Fisheries’ goal is to collect information and data to better identify quantities, reduce discards, improve catch opportunities, and inform future management.

NOAA Fisheries recognizes the frustration experienced by anglers with short seasons and high level of discards for many grouper species, including red snapper. We believe that funding these projects is a critical part of a multi-part plan to improve governance. The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council is leading part of the plan to conduct a management strategy assessment for the grouper fishery. Management strategy evaluations allow scientists and managers to evaluate and test different management strategies to determine the best way to perform and achieve management goals. in addition to, South Atlantic Red Snapper Research Program An independent estimate of the population size of red snapper 2 years and older is being conducted from North Carolina to Florida. This study will help inform the next population assessment of red snapper.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council also continues to evaluate management actions to end overfishing of red snapper, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. NOAA’s Fisheries Service notified the Council in the summer of 2021 that overfishing was occurring, but has not yet taken action to end red snapper overfishing. Under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, NOAA’s Fisheries Service is evaluating options to address red snapper overfishing that may impact the length of the 2024 commercial and recreational red snapper fishing seasons. Currently, the length of red snapper fishing seasons has not yet been determined. NOAA Fisheries will discuss red snapper fishing seasons at the next South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council meeting in March 2024.

Read more about NOAA’s Fisheries Bulletin here.

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