Snapper season reduced but catch increased

Anglers from Gulf states including Florida will be allowed to catch more red snapper this year but must do so during shortened season under a new federal proposal.

Federal snapper and grouper restrictions have become a political hot-button issue as commercial fishing groups and recreational anglers have protested restrictions imposed to end overfishing under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

U. S. Sen. Bill Nelson last month introduced a bill in Congress that prohibited the Department of Commerce from reducing the length of the red snapper season until a baseline stock assessment is conducted.

HM 553, introduced by Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, calls on Congress to “seek to balance resource protection and economic prosperity in Florida.”

The NOAA Fisheries Service said today it is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would increase the snapper catch from 5 million to nearly 7 million pounds this year for commercial and recreational fishermen. But the recreational fishing season, starting June 1, would remain open only up to 60 days compared to 75 days in 2009.

The season length would be reduced because recreational anglers have exceeded their allocation in the past, said Kim Amendola, spokeswoman in the NOAA Fisheries Service office in St. Petersburg.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect opening date and projected length of the snapper season.

(Reprinted with permission from The Current by The Florida Tribune. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)