FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Smith
At the request of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries has approved an emergency rule that increases by three inches the minimum size limit for red snapper caught by recreational fishermen in Gulf of Mexico federal waters starting June 4. The change in size limit from 15 to 18 inches will allow the fishery to remain open another 24 days to August 29. There is no change to the bag limit, which remains at four fish.
The council and the agency took emergency action, with much support from the recreational industry, to increase the size limit, to reduce catch rates and extend the recreational season that under the current 15-inch minimum size limit, would have closed on August 5.
NOAA Fisheries is required to close the recreational red snapper fishery when it reaches the 1999 quota of 4.47 million pounds. The Council and NOAA Fisheries believe that the 24-day extension of the season will relieve economic hardship in the for-hire sector that would result from an August 5 closure.
"Our analyses suggest that the increased size limit will provide benefits to recreational fishermen and the for-hire fishing businesses in the region without affecting the rebuilding schedule for this overfished stock," said William Hogarth, administrator of the agency's southeast region.
The recreational fishery will close on August 29, 1999, until January 1, 2000, unless the opening date for the 2000 season is changed. The council has submitted a regulatory amendment to NOAA Fisheries that would delay the start of the 2000 recreational season until March 1, 2000.
The council and NOAA Fisheries have asked all Gulf states to prohibit recreational landings and possession of red snapper in state waters during the federal closure period. NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Coast Guard and deputized state enforcement officers will strictly enforce the closure. Fishery violations may be reported during weekly business hours of 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. EDT, to the Southeast Region Law Enforcement Division at (727) 570-5344, or after hours and weekends at the National Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.
This and other Southeast Regional news releases and fishery bulletins are available on the region's Internet home page: http://caldera.sero.nmfs.gov, and the Council's web site: http://www.gulfcouncil.org/index.html.
NOAA Fisheries is an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency conducts scientific research and provides services and products to support fisheries management, fisheries development, trade and industry assistance, enforcement, and protected species and habitat conservation programs.