Gulf Coast Fisherman
RED SNAPPER UPDATE
In an historic and unprecedented move, all five Gulf states have unanimously agreed on a new framework for cooperative state-based management of Gulf red snapper and have submitted it to the Gulf states congressional delegations for their consideration in future legislation. This alternative management strategy would remove red snapper from federal authority and place responsibility for this highly valuable species in the hands of a new, independent body called the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority (GSRSMA), comprised of the principle marine fisheries managers from each Gulf state.
There has been increasing dissatisfaction among both Gulf state management authorities and their stakeholders with current management of the red snapper fishery. While the Gulf red snapper population is rebuilding, recreational red snapper fishing seasons have gotten shorter; in fact, the 2014 nine day federal red snapper season was the shortest in history. Federal managers set fishing seasons using imprecise estimates of recreational red snapper landings from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). Using these faulty data, they inaccurately estimate fishing quotas and are forced to set overly restrictive seasons. In addition, MRIP data are often not available to managers until after the fishing season is closed, prohibiting any kind of flexible, responsive management.
The Gulf states are confident that they can provide precise landings estimates and more frequent stock assessments--the data needed to better manage this fishery and allow fishermen to take full advantage of the available resource. The states are also more receptive and can be more responsive to the wants and needs of constituents. They can set flexible, tailored management measures that address local needs as well as Gulf wide conservation goals. However, they cannot do this under the current management framework, which is why they have proposed the GSRSMA framework. Under the GSRSMA framework, each state would be responsible for all management of red snapper in their respective state and adjacent federal waters. The GSRSMA would approve each state's management plan, coordinate population assessments, provide consistent accountability measures, and distribute federal funding for research, assessment, and management.
The Gulf states chose to submit this proposal together to demonstrate that they place great value in working together in partnership and collaboration to ensure we have a robust, sustainable, and accessible red snapper fishery in the Gulf. The Gulf states will continue to reach out to their congressional delegations to discuss the proposal and request their support for this new management framework agreed upon by each Gulf state.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced the recreational red snapper season in Louisiana state waters opened on Friday, March 20, 2015 at 12:01 a.m., and will remain open seven days per week until further notice. The bag and possession limit for the state waters season is two fish per person at a 16 inch minimum total length. The Department reminds anglers that a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit is required in order to possess certain species, including red snapper. Anglers may obtain or renew the permit, free of charge at https://rolp.wlf.la.gov. Anglers may renew their permits up to 30 days prior to expiration. A valid Louisiana fishing license number is required to obtain a permit. A confirmation number is allowed for a temporary (trip) license. The permit is required for any angler possessing tuna, billfish, swordfish, amberjack, grouper, snapper, hind, wahoo, cobia, and dolphin, except for those anglers fishing on a paid for hire trip where the captain holds a permit.
Meanwhile on the federal front, NOAA Fisheries announced a final rule that adds two long-term recreational accountability measures for red snapper. Accountability measures reduce the chances the harvest will exceed the quota, and if the quota is exceeded, take corrective action. The final rule will be effective April 20, 2015. The first accountability measure establishes a recreational annual catch target. The annual catch target is 20 percent less than the recreational quota. Projected recreational seasons will be based on the annual catch target rather than the quota. This measure is expected to reduce the probability of exceeding the quota in any given year from 50 to 15 percent.
The second accountability measure is an overage adjustment that is only applied when the red snapper population is considered overfished (the population is too low). In the event the recreational quota is exceeded, the recreational quota will be reduced in the year following the overage by the overage amount. This quota reduction could be modified if the best scientific information available determines that a different amount is necessary. Under this measure, the recreational annual catch target would be set at 20 percent below the adjusted quota.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met recently via webinar to review recommendations made by its scientific advisors regarding red snapper quotas for 2015 and beyond. The Council moved to set commercial red snapper quotas equal to the acceptable biological limits. If approved by the Department of Commerce, this action increases the 2015 total quota by 3.3 million pounds (mp), resulting in a commercial quota of 7.26 mp, and a recreational quota of 7.04 mp.
On March 18, 2015, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced that registration is open for WETSHOP 2015, a coastal awareness workshop for science, history, and social studies teachers. The workshop is scheduled for June 14 through 19, 2015 at LDWF's Grand Isle Fisheries Research Lab. The focus of this six day workshop is to provide teachers with an in depth look at issues related to wetland ecology and coastal land loss in Louisiana. Participating teachers will accrue 55 hours of instruction covering a wide variety of topics including wetland ecology, fisheries management, and coastal restoration. Teachers will also spend a portion of each day in the field learning about maritime forests, barrier island beach ecology, coastal restoration projects, bird life, marsh and swamp habitats, and marine organisms.
All participating teachers will receive wetland lessons and many other educational resources from numerous sponsoring agencies and organizations. Lodging and meals are provided once participants reach the workshop site. Upon completion of the workshop, each participant will receive a $250 stipend. An additional stipend is available during the academic year upon completion of a wetland stewardship project. WETSHOP is sponsored by LDWF with grant funding provided by the Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP). In addition to this funding, WETSHOP is a collaborative effort with partners that provide experts in the field for presentations and educational materials. These agencies/organizations include: BTNEP, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Nature Conservancy, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, Coastal Planning Protection and Restoration Act, and Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Teachers interested in WETSHOP 2015 can contact LDWF Biologist Supervisor Angela Capello at 318 623 4661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOATUS CALLS FOR ACTION ON ETHANOL FUEL
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters, providing its over half million members with government representation, fighting against unfair federal taxes, fees, and regulations that single out boat owners. BoatUS is also non-partisan working on both sides of the aisle as well as with state agencies to promote sensible boating laws.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is the 2005 federal law that requires the blending of biofuels such as corn-ethanol into our gasoline. When it was written, it assumed that America's use of gasoline would continue to rise and mandated escalating amounts of biofuels to be blended with our fuel. Since 2005, however, gasoline usage has actually declined steadily, which today forces more ethanol into less gasoline. To keep up with this RFS mandate, the EPA permitted E15 (fuel containing up to 15% ethanol) into the marketplace in 2010. Even though E15 is prohibited from being used in marine engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and small engines like lawnmowers and leaf blowers, as well as any vehicle made before 2001, this fuel can now be found at over 100 stations in 16 states at the very same pumps as E10 and ethanol-free gasoline.
Over 60% of the half million BoatUS members as well as millions of recreational boaters fill their boat's fuel tanks at roadside gas stations where the higher blend ethanol fuels are often the cheapest fuel at the pump. This creates a huge potential for misfueling and puts boaters at risk.
For years, BoatUS has been battling in Washington to make sure recreational boat owners can buy gasoline that works with their recreational boat engines. Senators Diane Feinstein and Pat Toomey have now introduced S. 577, the "Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015" in the US Senate. This bill, which has both Democrat and Republican support, will effectively remove the government mandate for higher blends of corn-based ethanol fuels (more than 10%) and allow for investment in other more compatible biofuels. BoatUS believes it is a critical step to solving the ethanol issue and urges America's boat owners to contact their Senator now to become a co-sponsor and supporter of S. 577. Boaters can easily do this at: http://goo.gl/S4bWMu. For more on the Renewable Fuel Standard go to www.BoatUS.com/gov.
GCRL TAG STUDIES
The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) reports that of the more than 17,000 spotted seatrout tagged and released from 1995 2008, approximately three percent were recaptured and reported. Tagging results revealed that more than 90 percent of tagged fish had moved less than 10 miles upon recapture. Only three fish had traveled 30 miles or more. This supports the Gulf wide notion that spotted seatrout are generally resident fish within the coastal waters of each state.
More than 3,400 tripletail have been tagged and released from 1996 through April 2014. Of those fish, 352 have been recaptured, resulting in an astounding recapture rate of 10.4 percent. Most of the information gained through this research pertains to tripletail occurring in Florida waters, as 78 percent of all fish have been tagged along the Florida Peninsula. Tagging data show that tripletail occur year round in Florida waters but only occur seasonally in the northern Gulf, having been tagged from May to October in Alabama and Mississippi waters.
________________________________________________________________ This information was compiled by Dave Burrage, Peter Nguyen, and Benedict Posadas. For more information, visit our office at 1815 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 39532 or telephone (228) 388-4710.
MSU Coastal Research and