Today, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took final action on shrimp Amendment 18, allowing shrimpers to increase the amount of fishing allowed under the red snapper rebuilding plan. The Southern Shrimp Alliance advocated for this change for more than two years. The Council was unanimous in its decision. Once again, the Alliance won its arguments before regulators by presenting scientific research.
The Council’s actions acknowledge that the shrimp fishery has made a substantial contribution to the rebuilding of the red snapper stock. Since the plan went into effect, shrimpers have achieved 100% compliance with the red snapper management plan’s goals.
The Council’s actions also acknowledge that shrimp bycatch has a lesser impact on the red snapper resource than the previous assessments and associated projections used by the recovery plan.
“The Gulf Council acted today to relax the quotas on shrimp fishing after finding that current, stringent quotas on shrimpers have little impact on the recovery of red snapper stocks,” said John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “We thank the Council for accepting the peer-reviewed research that demonstrates the impact of shrimp fishing on the red snapper stocks is significantly less than projected by the Red Snapper rebuilding plan.”
The Amendment now goes to National Marine Fisheries Service for final review and approval. If approved, the formal rule-making process to implement Amendment 18 in federal regulations will take most of 2019.
About the Red Snapper Fishery Management Plan
The red snapper fishery management plan regulates the commercial and recreational directed red snapper fisheries and the shrimp fishery. During this rebuilding period, quotas and associated economic benefits for all commercial and recreational directed red snapper fisheries have increased substantially.
This is the second time the Gulf Council has relaxed the quota on shrimp trawl fishing, known as effort, since the imposition of the red snapper management plan in 2008. The plan originally required the shrimp fishery to reduce shrimp trawl effort in specific areas by 74% from a 2001-2003 baseline.
The quota was reduced to 67% in 2011 because shrimpers met goals established in the rebuilding plan.
Better Science Required Change to Plan
The red snapper management plan intended to phase down the shrimp trawl effort quota to 60% by the end of the rebuilding period in 2032. However, that change came today.
Studies published after the plan went into effect show shrimp bycatch has less impact on juvenile red snapper stocks than assumed by the original management plan.
The Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) analyzed of the Gulf Council proposal to reduce the shrimp trawl effort quota to 60%. It found, “Additionally, compared to previous assessments and associated projections…the relatively high natural mortality values assumed for age-0 and 1 fish (i.e. those ages primarily caught as bycatch in shrimp trawls) like acts to additionally reduce the impact of shrimp bycatch on rebuilding schedules. Because a higher proportion of these juvenile fish are assumed to die from natural cases, shrimp bycatch has a lesser impact on the resource, and moderate increases in shrimping effort is unlikely to greatly impact ABCs.” (ABCs=acceptable biological catch)
Future Changes to be Faster
Amendment 18 makes another important change to the red snapper management plan. It gives the Council the authority to use a standard open framework action to make future changes to the target effort reduction goal for the shrimp fishery. SSA supports this measure, which is intended to facilitate timely adoption and implementation of any further modifications in the future without the need of a full plan amendment.
Reef Fish Amendment 50: State Management for Recreational Red Snapper
In other news on red snapper management, the Council took action on Reef Fish Amendment 50, which delegates management authority of the private angling component for recreational red snapper fishing to each state.
Read SSA’s comments on Amendment 18: http://www.shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Amendment-18-Comments-3-25-19.pdf