Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin
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NOAA Announces the 2017 Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Recreational Seasons 
The 2017 Gulf of Mexico federal red snapper recreational seasons open for the private angling and federally permitted for-hire components on June 1, 2017, at 12:01 a.m., local time.  The private angler component season will be 3 days and the federally permitted for-hire component season will be 49 days in federal waters.
Closing dates for each component are:
  • Private Anglers: June 4, 2017, at 12:01 a.m., local time.
  • Federally Permitted For-Hire Vessels: July 20, 2017, at 12:01 a.m., local time.
  • The red snapper total recreational quota is allocated 57.7% to the private angling component and 42.3% to the for-hire component.
  • In 2016, the total recreational quota was exceeded by 129,906 pounds.  The private angling quota was also exceeded.
  • The overage of the total recreational quota must be paid back by the private angling component because that component exceeded its quota.
  • After adjustment for the 2016 overage, the 2017 annual catch target for the private angling component is 3,004,075 pounds whole weight.  The 2017 annual catch target for the for-hire component is 2,278,000 pounds whole weight.
  • Catches in both state and federal waters are counted against the quota.  The number of days for each component to harvest its annual catch target was calculated using 2016 catch rates and accounting for the expected red snapper harvest during state seasons outside the federal season.  Private anglers are expected to harvest nearly 81% of the private angling quota during state seasons that range from 67 to 365 days.
  • Based on the 2017 catch targets and after accounting for landings during state seasons, the private angling season in federal waters can be 3 days and the for-hire season can be 49 days.
  • For information on red snapper recreational management in the Gulf of Mexico including how the season lengths were projected, go to:
  • Harvest or possession of red snapper in or from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico is prohibited.
  • State water recreational red snapper seasons may differ from federal water seasons.  Please check with your local state’s rules and regulations.
  • Federally permitted for-hire vessels may not harvest and retain recreationally caught red snapper in state waters, even if state waters remain open after the federal water closure.
Why are the private recreational red snapper seasons getting shorter when the population is getting larger?
  • To maintain and build on the progress made, NOAA Fisheries needed to set the federal recreational season lengths to keep fishing catches within their targets as mandated by the Magnuson Stevens Act and identified by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
  • Catch rates are higher.
    • o   There are more red snapper and anglers are catching them faster, landing fish at two and a half times the rate they did in 2007.
    • o   Today’s red snapper are more than twice the size as in 2007, on average going from 3.3 pounds (2007) to 7.25 pounds (2016).
  • Quotas have been adjusted.
    • o   A court ruling required fishery managers to establish accountability measures to reduce the likelihood recreational fishermen will exceed their quota; a 20% recreational quota buffer was established.
    • o   If the annual quota is exceeded, any overage is deducted from the quota for the following fishing season.
  • Red snapper are easy to catch.
    • o   More artificial reefs are being placed closer to shore, aggregating fish and making them more accessible to private anglers.
    • o   Technology, such as fish finders and global positioning satellites – GPS, and artificial reefs that aggregate fish, make red snapper easier to find than in the past.
  • The average state season lengths have increased since 2012 (see Figure below).
    • o   NOAA Fisheries is responsible for ensuring the entire recreational harvest of red snapper, including harvest in state waters, does not exceed the recreational quota.
    • o   Therefore, if states establish a longer season for state waters than allowed in federal waters, the federal season must be adjusted to account for the additional harvest expected in state waters.
    • o   Private anglers are projected to catch nearly 81% of the annual catch target in 2017 during state seasons, leaving less than 600,000 pounds for the private federal season.
    • o   State seasons for 2017 are expected vary from 67 to 365 days.