New Science on Red Snapper Bycatch

The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) wishes to express its appreciation to the authors of a new scientific paper confirming that the shrimp trawl fishery in the Gulf of Mexico accounts for a negligible fraction of the total mortality of juvenile red snapper.

The authors are Dr. Benny Gallaway, Dr. Bill Gazey and Dr. John Cole. The paper was published in March in the prestigious North American Journal of Fisheries Management. It is entitled “An Updated Description of the Benefits and Consequences of Red Snapper Shrimp Trawl Bycatch Management Actions in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This paper finally puts to rest what our industry has always suspected, that the science was wrong and so the shrimp trawl fishery was shouldering an excessive share of the conservation burden for rebuilding the red snapper stock”, said John Williams, SSA Executive Director.

In the paper the authors carefully trace the history of red snapper stock assessment science and management actions taken by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to regulate the shrimp and directed red snapper fisheries. As part of the effort to rebuild the red snapper stock, federal regulations require the shrimp trawl fishery to drastically reduce its fishing effort in vast areas of the north and central Gulf of Mexico known to be juvenile red snapper habitat.

However, the paper confirms that natural mortality of these young fish is much higher than previously thought, and that the shrimp trawl fishery only accounts for 4% of the total mortality of juvenile red snapper. These findings call into question whether the current shrimp trawl effort reductions remain justified.

“We are extremely proud of our fishery’s long and highly successful record of sustainable bycatch conservation unmatched by any shrimp trawl fishery in the world. While our fishery remains firmly committed to do its share to reduce the bycatch of all species including juvenile red snapper, it may be time for the Council to consider revisiting the management plan to reflect this scientific reality“, added Williams.

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