FWC takes action on red snapper, grouper; feds still studying

Special to The Log
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is exploring a plan to give the states more authority in managing red snapper and seeking public input on the subject. The council will hold a meeting in Panama City next week to solicit comments on the plan.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved an Oct. 1-21 supplemental recreational red snapper season in Gulf state waters for 2013 and eliminated a Feb. 1 – March 31 closure affecting several species of grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters.

 The elimination changes go into effect before the scheduled closures would have occurred. The season eliminations will also make state regulations consistent with federal regulations.

State waters are from shore to nine nautical miles in the Gulf. Federal waters extend out from where state waters end to about 200 nautical miles.

The Oct. 1-21 supplemental recreational red snapper season in Gulf state waters is for 2013 only. An October supplemental season has also been proposed for Gulf federal waters. Federal fishery managers are still analyzing recreational harvest estimates for the 2013 regular season to determine whether or not to open the recreational red snapper season in Gulf federal waters. NOAA Fisheries Service is expected to make an announcement regarding the potential federal season sometime in the next few weeks.

Until the red snapper gets the OK in federal waters, vessels holding a federal permit can not land a red snapper during the supplemental season.

Grouper species affected by elimination of the Feb. 1 – March 31 Gulf closure include black, red, red hind, rock hind, scamp, yellowfin and yellowmouth.

In federal waters, the Feb. 1 – March 31 closure was recently removed in waters shoreward of 20 fathoms or about 120 feet deep.

The Feb. 1 – March 31 closure was adopted as an effort to rebuild gag grouper populations during the spawning season. Today, gag grouper is managed separately from other Gulf groupers with its own harvest season, which is open July 1 through Dec. 3 in most state and all federal waters. Removing this closure will provide anglers with additional opportunities to fish for many species of grouper during February and March in Gulf state waters.