Decision on red grouper fishery attempts to fix history of flawed data.
At its meeting last week, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council adjusted recreational and commercial red grouper quotas using revised recreational historical data that gives a much-clearer picture of actual participation in the fishery. By correcting errors in the historical data, the Council’s action changed the allocation of the red grouper fishery from 76% commercial / 24% recreational to 59.3% commercial / 40.7% recreational.
“We appreciate the efforts of NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf Council to improve recreational harvest data and implement it into the management system,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “Although this was a science-driven process, it was complicated, and we appreciate everyone – including staff at NOAA and the Gulf Council – who were a part of this precedent-setting decision.”
NOAA Fisheries is in the process of correcting the historic recreational data in many of the fisheries it manages which will likely result in additional allocation changes. Red grouper was one of the first fisheries to work the new numbers through a stock assessment and although it was not a true reallocation process, it did present the opportunity to correct the allocations which have been based entirely on past catch history from a select and limited set of years.
CCA and other groups representing the recreational boating and angling community have called for a reallocation process that is based on forward-looking criteria, including economics and demographics to provide the maximum benefits to the nation.
“This correction to historic data is a step in the right direction, but for the most timely data and efficient management possible the Gulf states should be responsible for more fisheries off their coasts,” said Trip Aukeman, CCA Florida Advocacy Director. “Florida and the other Gulf states have developed state-of-the art data collection systems for red snapper that provide much more flexible and responsive management that could easily be adapted to other fisheries.”
The Gulf Council will soon begin discussing regulation changes for red grouper, which are presently at a historically low level of abundance for a variety of reasons, including red tide. Despite the changes in allocation resulting from the data correction, anglers may see shorter seasons and tighter limits in the near future.