Feds Delay Decision On Snapper Grouper Limits, Seasons

Daryl Kirby | July 1, 2008

Georgia charter-boat captains and the businesses that rely on angler tourists got a temporary reprieve from federal regulations that could spell doom for bottom-fishing charters, but indications are that the federal government is intent on imposing regulations that would hammer the recreational saltwater fishing industry.

At a June 10 meeting in Orlando, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council delayed final approval of an amendment that could reduce limits and close grouper fishing from January through April.

The regulations are proposed to address what the council has characterized as overfishing of grouper and snapper.

The proposed grouper regulation includes a January through April ban on fishing for gag grouper, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, yellowmouth grouper, tiger grouper, yellowfin grouper, graysby and coney. The council said it expects to approve this change at its next meeting in Charleston, S.C. on Sept. 15-19.

The South Atlantic Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils in the United States established by the federal government.

The council is also considering alternatives that could impact red-snapper fishing, including an alternative to completely ban harvest of red snapper from North Carolina to Florida.

A statement by the council said, “A recent stock assessment for red snapper was reviewed by the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and the SSC concurred that overfishing is occurring at a very high rate and the biomass is at a critically low level.”

Red snapper, including large fish, are commonly caught by anglers. The council addressed this fact by saying, “the incidence of more and larger fish may be attributed to two strong year classes of red snapper that occurred in the mid 1990s,” and “there is little evidence to show that there is anything following these strong year classes, and the SSC was confident in the stock-assessment results for red snapper.”

Anglers and divers off the Georgia coast also report an abundance of grouper and increasing numbers.

In another proposal, the council is considering the establishment of eight new marine sanctuaries from North Carolina to Florida where bottom fishing would be banned, including an area of the Savannah Snapper Banks that could be up to 10 miles wide and 15 miles long.

For more information on the proposals and to comment, visit the website at <>.

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