No Change Yet To Snapper, Grouper Limits And Seasons

Proposed limit reductions and seasonal closures have some anglers confused, but for now the restrictions have not been approved and the fishing is fantastic.

Daryl Kirby | February 10, 2009

Capt. Steve Amick’s boat produced this catch Oct. 28. Captains feel fish populations off Georgia are improving, not declining, and that further restrictions are not needed.

Limit reductions, season closures, new non-fishing areas — federal efforts to manage saltwater fish have recreational anglers confused, while charter captains question the data being cited for proposed restrictions. The bottom line for right now is this — Georgia snapper and grouper limits and seasons have not changed yet, and the fishing is excellent.

At issue are several amendments proposed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), which was established in 1976 when Congress passed the Magnuson Fishery Conservation And Management Act (MFCMA). It extended the federal jurisdiction of fisheries out to 200 miles and created a new form of regional government through eight regional fishery management councils.

Here is the status of three amendments put forth by SAFMC:

• Amendment 14: Already passed, it created deepwater Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) from North Carolina to Florida. The Georgia MPA is located about 70 miles east of the mouth of the Savannah River in depths from 300 to 1,000 feet. The area measures 10 miles by 10 miles. Bottom fishing is prohibited in the MPA, but trolling and freelining are allowed.

• Amendment 16: Currently out for public comment, it would result in the following changes for recreational anglers if implemented: grouper aggregate limit reduced from five to three; gag/black grouper limit reduced from two to one; vermilion snapper (beeliner) limit reduced from 10 to five; shallow-water grouper closure from January to April; vermilion snapper closure from November through March.

“Although it is hard to predict exactly what will happen, I think it’s reasonable to expect Amendment 16 to be implemented in the second half of 2009,” said Spud Woodward, assistant director for Marine Fisheries, Coastal Resources Division.

• Amendment 17: Still out for comment, it contains measures to address red-snapper overfishing.

“While it’s unlikely this amendment will be fully implemented in 2009, the [Council] could recommend an emergency interim rule to close red-snapper harvest some time in late 2009. We’ll know more after the March meeting, which will be held on Jekyll Island,” Woodward said.

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