Alabama Marine Resources is Working to Improve Upon Shortest-Ever Federal Red Snapper Season

The 2014 Federal Red Snapper Season has been set at nine days, the shortest season ever.

One of the main issues that has caused the nine-day season is the inaccurate landings data that is being gathered by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) has been working, and continues to work, to make substantive changes that will fix this system for the long term.

MRD has established a new data program designed to more accurately count Red Snapper harvested among Alabama’s anglers. The new system requires only one report per vessel trip, which can easily be filled out via smartphone app, online, by telephone, or by paper form.

“This new Red Snapper data collection program is a critical element in our fight to show that the State of Alabama has the ability to properly manage this vitally important fishery,” said Chris Blankenship, Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division.

Red Snapper is an important species to many of Alabama’s saltwater anglers and makes up a sizable part of Alabama’s estimated $690 million recreational fishery. Ever-decreasing seasons have negatively impacted Alabama’s citizens and visitors as well as the state’s coastal communities.

In order to gather better data to help manage this important fishery, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, via emergency regulation, established the new program on May 13, 2014. The new regulation requires the captain or owner of a charter boat or private vessel with Red Snapper on board to report all Red Snapper kept and discarded dead prior to landing in Alabama regardless of where fish are caught.

Additional information required to be reported includes:

  • Vessel registration
  • Type of vessel (private or charter)
  • County of landing (when seafood is transferred from a vessel to land or to a pier, dock, or bulkhead attached to land, or when a vessel is hauled onto land via trailer)
  • Number of anglers

Anglers can provide details via a smartphone app available under “Outdoor Alabama” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores; online at outdooralabama.com; by telephone at 1-844-REDSNAP (1-844-733-7627), or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches. Only one report is required per vessel trip.

“We have had broad support from both charter and recreational fishing organizations to improve the data collection for Red Snapper,” Blankenship said. “I appreciate Commissioner Gunter Guy and the Conservation Advisory Board for promulgating this regulation. The correct landing information from this program can be a tool we can use to either vastly improve the federal management for this species or work to have the management transferred to the states.”

Alabama also passed a bill in the state legislature this year to extend our waters to nine miles. This bill was sponsored by Rep. David Sessions and Steve McMillian and was handled in the senate by Senator Pittman.

MRD is working with Alabama’s congressional delegation to have this new distance recognized federally. They are also working to establish three new reef areas within nine miles so they can increase the amount of fish in this area.

Florida and Texas have had nine miles federally recognized for decades. The other Gulf states have all passed state legislation to move state waters so that all five states would have nine miles. This is an important issue that would put all the states on a more level playing field.

ADCNR continues to support Alabama’s anglers and anticipates this program will assist its efforts to maximize access to this valuable resource.