The season will start on June 1 and run through July 22
Adding two more days than last year, the government has set a 51-day season for red snapper in federal waters for for-hire vessels.
The season will start on June 1, as is custom, and run through July 22.
"It's a lot better than the nine days we got a few years back," said Capt. Chris Schofield of the charter boat No Alibi, who also serves on the board of the Destin Charter Boat Association. "I'm fine with it ... that's 51 days that we can keep a red snapper."
However, he said most of his business doesn't revolve around the red snapper.
"I have mostly family charters that just want to have fun," he said.
The decision by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to lengthen the for-hire vessels is in step with what the agency has been doing for the past several years.
Historically overfished, in 2006 NOAA made drastic cuts in red snapper harvest allotments for the recreational sector, reducing the season from six months to just days. Since then, both NOAA and the fishermen report the snapper population has rebounded dramatically. As such, the season has been steadily growing. In the past three years, for example, the season has grown from 46 days in 2016 to 49 days in 2017 and now 51.
"We've had a gradual increase since sector separation, which has been a stability to the fishery," said Capt. Jim Green, president of the Destin Charter Boat Association, on his drive back from the Gulf Council meeting on Thursday afternoon. "It's imperative that we don't over fish, but we're happy to hear about 51 days."
For the last three years the for-hire sector has underfished their quota.
As a result, Green, along with others in charter for-hire industry, hope will result in more days next year.
"As long as we stay within our quota, hopefully we will steadily keep getting more days," Schofield said.
However, it has not been all smooth sailing.
While the season for for-hire vessels has been lengthening, last year NOAA set the federal season for recreational anglers in federal waters at just three days, citing concerns about overfishing. In the wake of fierce outcry, the government lengthened the season mid-way through the summer but the event left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.
As NOAA put it in a press release, “many fishermen are frustrated with the increasingly restrictive federal management of red snapper and see a need for increased cooperation between state and federal governments.”
As such, this year while NOAA has maintained control of for-hire vessels, a two year pilot program was started allowing the Gulf States to set the season for recreational anglers in both state and federal waters for the first time. The season for recreational anglers in federal and state waters will start June 11 and last until July 21, for a total of 40 days.
"We're supporting the state doing that for them," Green said.
Though the recreational anglers have a shorter season, they have been allocated a larger share of the total of the harvest. Out of the total allotment of 6.733 million pounds of red snapper alloted for for-hire and recreational anglers, the recreational anglers as a whole are allowed to catch 57.7 percent.
States are expected, according to NOAA, to “monitor red snapper private angler landings and close their seasons if the state's assigned quota is reached or projected to be reached.”
Destin Log reporter Tina Harbuck contributed to this article.