Holly Binns, of the Pew Environment Group, issued the following statement today in response to the Department of Commerce's decision to suspend part of the South Atlantic red snapper recovery plan until fishery managers consider results of a new study. Red snapper fishing is still prohibited from North Carolina to Florida, but a proposed 4,827 square mile area closed to bottom fishing will not go into effect for 180 days, giving the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council time next week to approve possible changes to the closure.
“We can live with a short delay as long as the council does what science dictates to save red snapper from further decline and protect our ocean ecosystem. Overall, the new study shows the bottom line has not changed: Red snapper are at dangerously low population levels and are in urgent need of help.
The closed ocean area is designed to protect red snapper caught accidentally when fishermen target other species. Accidental catch is a major source of red snapper mortalities and managers must address this problem. Suspending this part of the plan now should not preclude managers from giving the area closure full consideration when they meet next week.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has reduced the size of this ocean closure repeatedly—from a possible 26,600 square mile area to the 4,800 square miles approved in June—to allow as much snapper and grouper fishing as possible and address fishermen's economic concerns. Well-intentioned efforts to ease short-term economic costs could end up hurting this fishery, our ocean ecosystem and the jobs it supports in the long run. This species reached this condition in the first place because decades of unsustainable fishing were allowed to continue without sufficiently strong rules. Overall, we remain cautiously hopeful the final recovery plan will get the job done, so we will have enough red snapper to support jobs, fishing, seafood and recreational opportunities for everyone in the future.”