Gulf Council mandates 74% bycatch reduction for shrimp fleet
CCA lawsuit forces reform, sets snapper on road to recovery
NEW ORLEANS – The most significant bycatch reduction measures ever imposed on the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fleet were announced today, paving the way for a steady recovery of Gulf red snapper stocks. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to put limitations on the shrimp industry despite its persistent position denying any responsibility for the current status of the red snapper fishery.
In response to a lawsuit filed by CCA against the National Marine Fisheries Service last year, a federal judge ruled in March that NMFS violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by its continuing failure to take timely and appropriate steps to rebuild red snapper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico or to regulate the harm to red snapper caused by shrimp fishing. The judge’s ruling overturned a 2005 rebuilding plan for red snapper because it failed to address and regulate the shrimp fishing industry.
“We are very disappointed in the 'just say no' attitude of the shrimp industry," said Bob Hayes, general counsel for Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). "It’s a shame we had to get a federal judge to force conservation measures on an industry that thinks it's immune from regulations.”
CCA President David Cummins noted, “There are measures in this management plan that will force significant reductions in the amount of shrimp trawl bycatch so that the sacrifices made by recreational anglers to recover Gulf red snapper will no longer be in vain. The action taken today by the Gulf Council will impact recreational anglers in the short term, but for the first time there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Among other regulations approved for the red snapper fishery, the shrimp industry must reduce trawl bycatch mortality by 74 percent. The management plan also stipulates a two-fish bag limit and a 16-inch minimum size for recreational anglers during a 107-day season between June 1 and September 15. Additionally, the use of circle hooks and venting devices requested by CCA will be required for all reef fishing in the Gulf. The minimum size limit for the commercial fishery will be set at 13 inches in an effort to reduce the near-100 percent bycatch mortality in that sector. However, the Council refused requests by CCA to physically separate the commercial and recreational sectors in anticipation of problems associated with the different minimum size limits.
“We have fought NMFS on the issue of shrimp trawl bycatch for more than two decades,” said Cummins. “Its refusal to address bycatch adequately at any point in the past has forced recreational anglers to accept tighter and tighter regulations while doing nothing to recover red snapper. With the successful conclusion of the lawsuit and the action taken by the Gulf Council, those days are hopefully over.”
CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH