Dauphin Island, Al. – The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (AMRD) today announced preliminary results of the Alabama Red Snapper Reporting Program, which was implemented in May 2014 to better ascertain the number of recreationally caught red snapper landed in Alabama. Findings were presented to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council earlier today during its meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi.
The Alabama Red Snapper Reporting Program estimates that 418,000 pounds of red snapper were landed in Alabama through June 30, which included the shortest federal season to date of nine days (June 1- 9). These findings are significantly less than estimates from the federal Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) estimate which indicated 1,041,000 pounds of landings during the same period.
“There is a significant difference between the results of the Alabama red snapper reporting system and the federal MRIP system,” said Chris Blankenship, director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division and program administrator for the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. “Federal landings are nearly two-and-a-half times what Alabama’s program shows. If landings are closer to those estimated from Alabama’s program, the federal season could have been significantly longer than nine days.”
Many Alabama fishermen, along with AMRD staff, felt that MRIP had been overestimating the landings of red snapper, which is one of the factors that resulted in the now shortened red snapper season. Both the 2014 Alabama Red Snapper Reporting Program and the 2014 federal MRIP program were conducted simultaneously in order to compare the two programs.
According to Blankenship, the Marine Resources Division has been in discussions with NOAA MRIP staff since results of the federal estimates were made public. Alabama landings estimates for the state season held during weekends in July will be compared to MRIP estimates when data from that program is available in October. This continued dialogue is anticipated to improve the MRIP system going forward.
Recreational landings included fish harvested by charter boat anglers and private recreational anglers. AMRD also used video collected during the federal season from six coastal boat ramps popular among red snapper anglers to validate its red snapper reporting program results.
“The video data shows how many vessels and fishermen launched from our high-use public boat ramps during the snapper season. The number of vessels and anglers estimated from the video are very comparable to the Alabama Red Snapper Reporting Program results – which lends credibility to Alabama results and the data reported through this program,” said Blankenship.
“We believed that the MRIP system was overinflating landings, but prior to implementing the reporting program, we had no data to show any inaccuracies. The Alabama Marine Resources Division would like to thank all the fishermen that reported their catches of red snapper during this programs initial year. With this new Alabama landing information, we have been able to initiate discussions with National Marine Fisheries Service that should pay dividends as we move forward and could assist with alternative management strategies in the future.”
Additional information can be found at outdooralabama.com/saltwater-fishing-alabama.