A group of university and government scientists will attempt to estimate the number of red snapper that live in the Gulf of Mexico, in a study that could potentially affect the future of U.S. commercial and recreational fishing laws.
The study was announced Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The research team includes 21 scientists from 12 universities, including Texas A&M University at Galveston. The team was awarded a $9.5 million grant to study the topic.
“We’ve assembled some of the best red snapper scientists for this study,” said Greg Stunz, the project leader and a professor at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University — Corpus Christi. “The team members assembled through this process are ready to address this challenging research question. There are lots of constituents who want an independent abundance estimate that will be anxiously awaiting our findings.”
Questions about the number of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico have been at the center of the debate around the length of the recreational red snapper fishing season.
The length of the red snapper fishing season is determined by how many fish federal officials believe are in the Gulf, and how many can be caught without depleting the fishery population.
After decades of overfishing, the red snapper stock was nearly depleted in the 1980s and 1990s. A wave of new regulations and a new management system implemented in 2007 has helped rebuild the stock. Current plans estimate the fishery stock will be rebuilt by 2032.
Some lawmakers, recreational anglers and the groups that represent them have said federal data used to determine red snapper season for recreational anglers is outdated.
This year’s red snapper season was originally limited to three days, until intervention by several members of Congress resulted in the Commerce Department extending it for another 39 days.