FWC Press Release

Contact: Lee Schlesinger, (850) 487-0554

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has proposed changes to management rules for red snapper harvested in Gulf of Mexico state waters. These proposed rules would be consistent with pending red snapper regulations in Gulf federal waters.

Red snapper is considered to be overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Gulf, and federal law requires that measures be taken to end overfishing and rebuild red snapper stocks. Florida waters extend nine nautical miles offshore in the Gulf, and federal waters extend beyond state waters.

Earlier this year, the National Marine Fisheries Service implemented a temporary action to reduce the harvest of Gulf red snapper in federal waters while a permanent plan to manage overfished stocks was finalized. This interim action for Gulf federal waters reduced the daily recreational bag limit from 4 fish to 2 fish per person, prohibited the captain and crew of for-hire vessels from retaining the recreational bag limit, and lowered the commercial minimum size limit from 15 to 13 inches total length.

However, the FWC made no changes to red snapper regulations in Gulf state waters, and Florida’s daily recreational and commercial bag limit for red snapper is still 4 fish per person, the captain and crew of for-hire vessels can still keep the recreational bag limit, and the commercial minimum size limit remains unchanged at 15 inches total length.

New permanent federal Gulf red snapper regulations that will replace the interim rules are expected to be finalized by late 2007 and be implemented for the 2008 fishing season. The FWC has proposed rules for Gulf state waters that are consistent with the pending federal rules.

These measures would reduce the daily recreational bag limit of Gulf red snapper from 4 fish to 2 fish per person, establish a zero daily bag limit for captains and crew of Gulf for-hire vessels, and shorten the recreational fishing season for Gulf red snapper to 107, 122 or 154 days, depending upon the outcome of the pending federal rules.

In addition, these proposed rules would reduce the minimum size of commercially harvested red snapper in the Gulf and the minimum size of imported red snapper from 15 to 13 inches total length, and reduce the daily commercial bag and trip limit of Gulf red snapper from 4 fish to 2 fish per day.

The proposed rules would also allow only non-stainless steel circle hooks to be used to harvest any reef fish when natural baits are used and require a venting tool and a de-hooking device to be present onboard vessels harvesting any reef fish.

“Florida plays an important role in the success of the federal Gulf red snapper rebuilding plan because Florida’s recreational fishery accounts for a large proportion of the recreational red snapper catch,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “Taking these proposed actions will likely prevent further restrictions on red snapper harvest in Gulf federal waters, which is where Florida anglers catch most of the fish.”

A final public hearing on these rule proposals will take place during the FWC’s February meeting in Panama City.