Judge rules shrimpers must do their part to help red snapper recover


Special to the Herald-Guide
July 05, 2007 at 9:00 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The most significant bycatch reduction measures ever imposed on the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fleet were announced last month, paving the way for a steady recovery of Gulf red snapper stocks.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to put limitations on the shrimp industry despite its persistent position denying any responsibility for the current status of the red snapper fishery.

In response to a lawsuit filed by the Coastal Conservation Association against the National Marine Fisheries Service last year, a federal judge ruled in March that NMFS violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by its continuing failure to take timely and appropriate steps to rebuild red snapper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico or to regulate the harm to red snapper caused by shrimp fishing.

The judge’s ruling overturned a 2005 rebuilding plan for red snapper because it failed to address and regulate the shrimp fishing industry.

“There are measures in this management plan that will force significant reductions in the amount of shrimp-trawl bycatch so that the sacrifices made by recreational anglers to recover Gulf red snapper will no longer be in vain,” said CCA President David Cummins. “The action taken ... by the Gulf

Council will impact recreational anglers in the short term, but for the first time, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Among other regulations approved for the red snapper fishery, the shrimp industry must reduce trawl bycatch mortality by 74 percent.

“We have fought NMFS on the issue of shrimp trawl bycatch for more than twodecades,” said Cummins. “Its refusal to address bycatch adequately at anypoint in the past has forced recreational anglers to accept tighter andtighter regulations while doing nothing to recover red snapper. With thesuccessful conclusion of the lawsuit and the action taken by the GulfCouncil, those days are hopefully over.”

The management plan stipulates a two-fish bag limit and a 16-inch minimumsize for recreational anglers during a 107-day season between June 1 and Sept. 15. Additionally, the use of circle hooks and venting devices will be required for all reef fishing in the Gulf. The minimum size limit for the commercial fishery will be set at 13 inches in an effort to reduce the near-100 percent bycatch mortality in that sector.

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