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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The preliminary report of the 2009 red snapper update assessment is now available for downloading on the Gulf Council FTP site. (The last red snapper assessment was done in 2004). To get to it, enter the following URL in your web browser:

ftp://ftp.gulfcouncil.org

Press your <F5> key once you are in to clear your memory cache and to be sure you are viewing the most current file list. Click on a folder named Reef_Fish_SSC_and_Red_Snapper_AP_meetings_Dec_2009 to see the document along with other files and folders for the upcoming Red Snapper AP and Reef Fish SSC meeting. Don't try to open the file across the internet. Right click on it and save it to your local disk, then open it locally (Do the same for any other files you wish to download).

The report contains several alternative projection scenarios with catch levels ranging from 2 to 11 million pounds. The SSC will select which one should be used by the Council, and they will specify an Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), which will be slightly less than the yield allowed in the model to account for scientific uncertainty. For those who want to cut to the chase, the projected yields for 2010 - 2014 are in Table 30 on pages 95-96. The assessment panel is recommending Model AS3, which (if I have read the chart correctly) would allow yields of up to 9 million pounds per year for 2010 - 2012 (current TAC is 5 million pounds) before overfishing occurs. There is also an option to either continue treating the red snapper stock as a single unit throughout the Gulf of Mexico, or split it into east and west management units with the dividing line at the Mississippi River.

A presentation of the update assessment will be given by the assessment panel chair and by NMFS assessment scientists to a joint session of the Red Snapper AP and Reef Fish SSC in New Orleans on the afternoon of December 1. Agendas for those meetings are on the FTP site. Those meetings will be webcast, with a link to the webcast on the home page of the Council website (http://www.gulfcouncil.org).

Steven Atran
Population Dynamics Statistician
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
 

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snapper assessment

Mr. Atran,
Thank you for the link - interesting reading. There are some encouraging items being discussed, most notably the east/west split and acknowledgement that changes in our understanding of the biology, population dynamics and fishery of red snapper have occurred in the last 5 years.

However, although they acknowledge that; "Although several studies on various aspects of the life history of red snapper have been published since the benchmark assessment, the AW felt that no changes in the SEDAR 7 reproductive biology parameters, age and growth relationships, or meristic conversions were warranted in the update assessment. Consequently, the parameters and relationships used in the last benchmark assessment (SEDAR 7, 2005) were used for the 2009 red snapper assessment update." In other words, although they have acknowledged changes, they are still using the old data. I was very disappointed not to see the Shipp/Bortone paper in the studies presented to the panel however which addresses some of these very strong changes in the fundamentals of how we view the stock. Until the attraction/production issues are addressed adequately and accurately, there will continued mismanagement of this species in my opinion.

Also, while encouraging to see a proposed increase in TAC of up to 9 million pounds, nothing will change relative to our access to the fishery.

Here are the figures from Table 6 on page 20;

Year, Size Limit, Bag Limit, Days in Season, Rec TAC, Rec Harvest

1996 15 5 365 4.47 3.47
1997 15 5 3304.47 4.37
1998 15 42724.47 4.35
1999 154 2404.47 4.35
2000 16 4 1944.47 3.33
2001 16 4 194 4.47 3.56
2002 16 4 194 4.47 4.87
2003 16 4 194 4.47 4.60
2004 16 4 194 4.47 5.02
2005 16 4 194 4.47 4.59
2006 16 4 194 4.47 -
200716 2 194 3.185 -
200816 2 65 2.45 -
200916 2 75 2.45 4.27


Although the TAC may be raised to 9 million pounds, it will be little or no change in our current severely triuncated season of 75 days. I do not believe the figures for the recreational harvest in 2009 to be 4.27 million pounds to be anywhere even remotely accurate. Until the recreational harvest data is improved dramatically, it will continue to be more of the status quo management.​

Thank you again for posting up the link.
All the best,
Tom​
 

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Tom, when you get a chance, go to page 89 Figure 30, DIRECTED YIELD . I am curious to see if you and Monty among others, interpret that figure the same way I did. Admittedly, I am only a lowly charter captain, but it looks to me like that under the most liberal scenario, in the year 2032, the Red Snapper TAC will onlu be 18 million lbs. If it was 12 million 15 yrs ago, that indicates to me that all this hardship expense, hand wringing and name calling from 1990 to 2032 will result in a whopping one third greater available TAC than in the nineties ! Kind of makes you wonder what the hell all the fuss is about. Maybe I am wrong but that is how it reads to me. Mike Nugent
 

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Capt Mike,
I have a great deal of respect for you lowly charter captains as you guys are on the front lines out there on the water and see what's happening first hand.

If the TAC is 18 million in 2032, the problem as I see it is what's happening with the obvious cooking of the numbers by the NMFS. Until the NMFS is held accountable for its possibly illegal actions, there is little hope for us fishermen now or in 2032.

For example, here are the NMFS figures from 15 years ago (1994) and this year regarding snapper;

year size limit bag limit days in season TAC Harvest
1994 14 7 365 2.94 4.53
200916 2 75 2.45 4.27

In 1994 we had a 14" size limit, 7 fish/day bag limit, 365 day season and we harvested 4.53 million pounds.

In 2009 we had a 16" size limit, 2 fish/day bag limit, 75 day season, (and no captain/crew limits) and they claim we harvested 4.27 pounds - almost equal to what was harvested in 1994? Impossible.

Other data, independent of NMFS meddling, shows a 18% DECREASE in saltwater fishing participation in the years 1996 to 2006. The large majority of coastal states have experienced reduction in sales of saltwater fishing licenses in the past few years. The NMFS "cooked" numbers for 2009 suggests a 300% INCREASE in effort to achieve that feat of 4.27 million pounds. I don't believe it for a minute.

You tell me - has participation gone up or down in those years? My observation is that there are way less offshore fishermen now than 15 years ago.

On top of that, we have this train wreck called Catch Shares looming which will drive up the cost of fishing, reduce the number of boats on the water (including a large % of CFH boats), and restrict access to the resource immensely to private recs.

I guess our only hope are the lawsuits that are beginning to be filed to hold the NMFS accountable for their mismanagement and sleight of hand.

Happy Thanksgiving to all,

Tom
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Tom,

Although neither Bob Shipp nor Steve Bortone attended the red snapper update assessment workshop, there were other researchers who study artificial reefs present, and there were reports and discussions on the impact of artificial reefs during the workshop. If you go to the ftp site and drill down to the folder containing materials from the red snapper assessment workshop, you will find that the following materials were reviewed:

- In the documents folder: RedSnapper UA05 - Gallaway et al. 2009-Rev Fish Sci-Life hist rev for red snapper and art reefs. This is a published scientific report in which Dr. Benny Gallaway et al. reviewed the importance of offshore petroleum platforms and other artificial reefs. They concluded that, "red snapper production in the northern Gulf likely has been increased by the establishment of significant numbers of artificial reefs".

- In the PowerPoint presentations folder: Gallaway-Gazey - Gulf Council Red Snapper.ppt: This presentation by Bill Gazey is based on the Gallaway et al. report., and it provides a conceptual model of habitat use by red snapper throughout their life history.

- In the PowerPoint presentations folder: artreef_03_FIN.ppt: This was a presentation of a study made by scientists from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. From 1984-1992 fishermen interviewed at MRFSS dockside intercepts were asked if they had fished on an artificial reef. Based on the responses given, this study concluded that fishing trips to artificial reefs contributed to more than 60% of the total recreational catch and harvest of red snapper overall in the Gulf of Mexico during the time period studied, and more than 80% in AL, LA, and MS.

An "update" assessment has only a limited amount of time to evaluate new information and methods, and for that reason it is not supposed to deviate too much from the methods used in the last full benchmark assessment. However, there is clearly an increasing interest in the importance of artificial reefs in fisheries management, and these presentations help lay the groundwork for more fully considering how they might be incorporated into the next full benchmark assessment.
 

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Mr. Atran,
Thanks for pointing out the papers dealing with artificial reefs, and I do find it encouraging that the importance of these structures are finally starting to be addressed. I have not had the opportunity to read these papers yet, but I will. I have read the Shipp/Bortone paper what strikes me as the most important statement there is that there should be a paradigm shift from how snapper are viewed - currently the assumption is (incorrect) that the red snapper fishery is recruitment limited. Due to this premise, the stocks are therefore considered overfished and undergoing overfishing, when they should not be deemed as such.

To quote the paper;

"Currently, snapper populations around artificial reefs in the northcentral and northwestern Gulf support the majority of the U.S. harvest. If habitat is limiting, the designations of "overfishing" and "overfished" may be misleading, and "unrealized harvest potential" may be a more accurate descriptor of the current status of the stock given the increased presence of additional habitat for red snapper. Decreases in these artificial structures (owing to natural degradation or removal) may decrease future harvest potential.

...because current models are premised on a stock of red snapper that is recruitment limited, these stocks are considered "overfished and overfishing is occurring". Consideration of increased habitat would lead to a different conclusion (i.e., the stocks have an unrealized harvest potential). In addition, if the habitat limitation hypothesis is correct, it will be necessary to maintain, or even increase the amount of artificial habitat in the northern Gulf of Mexico to keep pace with fishing pressure. Programs such as the "rigs to reefs" efforts off Louisiana and Texas would have to be continued, as would the reef construction off Alabama."

Mr. Atran, since the lack of habitat is the bottleneck that keeps the snapper population in check, it seems prudent for the NMFS to engage in a pro-active habitat placement program across the Gulf, especially in light of the removal of the large numbers of oil platforms going on right now.

Enclosed is an image illustating the incredible success of the Alabama reefing program which has transformed an area comprised of predominately sandy mud habitat to one having increased hard bottom with high relief. The proof is in the pudding here, as this area which comprises less than 5% of the Gulf of Mexico continental shelf, was transformed from one basically devoid of any fishery into one that has accounted for an estimated 40% of all recreationally-caught snapper in the entire Gulf of Mexico. INCREDIBLE. Even more interesting is that this was accomplished with little or no funding from the federal government.

Szedlmayer goes further to state that Alabama has created their own SUSTAINABLE FISHERY. Especially incredible knowing that 40% of the entire Gulf's catch come from this small area every year for the last few years. If they are being attracted, where are they being attracted from? To quote Shipp/Bortone; "There are no areas of the Gulf which have become less productive for red snapper in recent decades." Also, when you consider that by and large, snapper have high fidelity to their habitat, the proposal that snapper from all across the Gulf are migrating to this small area is absolutely ludicrous.

Yet, now the very people who contributed to the effort to rebuild the snapper stocks are prohibited from enjoying the fruits of their labor for the large majority of the year due to the recent unwarranted draconian regs forced upon all Gulf fishermen by the NMFS.

I recently attended a habiat ap meeting here in Houston - the NMFS representative on the panel continued to make the argument that artificial reefs are detrimental to fish populations by "attracting" them so that fishermen could more easily catch them, thus achieving a net negative effect on the population. Disturbing.

In my opinion, if the people responsible for managing this fishery continue to ignore this documented, incredible success story developed by the people and agencies of Alabama, neglect to enact a proactive habitat program Gulf-wide, and continue to restrict access to the fishery based on intentionally using flawed data is nothing short of criminal.

All the best,
Tom
 

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Thanks for the humorous picture, Tom. It shows how ludicrous things are. You're a funny guy sometimes!

I keep thinking ... NMFS is over by Tampa and they don't have a clue about the north central and northwestern part of the Gulf. The Florida snapper boats all have to potlick in the direction of Alabama, probably true. But I've seen them potlick all the way down to South Padre, my friend. You know your reef and rig maps ... that is where the red snapper are, my friend.
sammie
 

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Sammie,
The picture was not meant to be funny - it's documented fact, and sometimes it takes a graphic to really get the point across.

It's a sad statement to the mismanagement of the fishery thus far. Hopefully things will change due to the light being shown on the ludicrousness of the situation.

You have to also remember that approximately 83% of the recreational harvest in the Gulf come from east of the Mississippi river because there are a heck of a lot more fishermen over there, yet almost 2/3 of the snapper stock is west of the river. So, without the existence of the artificial reef complex off of Alabama & Fl panhandle, that 83% harvest number would not be possible at all. Replicate this reef complex success story across the Gulf and the only thing that would be in undersupply would be fishermen.

Those % figures come from the recent A&M study which also says that future research and stock assessments need to look at separate management policies for the east and west Gulf red snapper fishery which I believe to be a great idea.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Tom
 

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Howdy,
Here's another look at the figures from the recent A&M study; The rec harvest is shown to be 83% east / 17% west, comm harvest is 30% east / 70% west. The Gulf snapper stock is assumed to be proportioned 37.5% east / 62.5% west. The split for the figures above is the Mississippi River Delta.

So, in other words, the combined rec/comm sectors are taking 56% of their total landings out of the 37.5% of the total Gulf snapper stock east of the Mississippi River...a recipe for overharvesting. Especially troubling to note that 83% of the rec landings are coming from 37.5% of the biomass.

The combined rec/comm sectors are taking 44% of their total landings out of the 62.5% of the total Gulf snapper stock west of the Mississippi River.

To quote from the study; "A single total TAC for the red snapper in the Gulf which always has a 51%-49% split between commercial and recreational fishermen can more readily cause more overfishing in the east than in the west Gulf. Future research and stock assessments need to look at separate management policies for the east and west Gulf red snapper fishery."

So, if there is a change in the 49/51% allocation, then how should it be changed? Base it on the SIZE of the east/west stocks 37.5% east/62.5% west, or on HISTORICAL CATCH RATES; 83% rec east / 17% rec west, 30% comm east / 70% comm west? Or, since there so many less recreational fishermen fishing a much larger biomass over here on the west side, should we have more liberal seasons/limits than the east? Don't know the answers - just throwing it out for debate.

You can see how quickly it gets complicated - then throw in the proposal by the SOS guys to further split the rec sector, and you can see how utterly ridiculous the situation becomes...

All the best,
Tom
 

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This all reminds me of watching the Wildebeast at the watering holes. It surely attracts lions and crocs, but they don't make a dent on the populations. However without the watering holes you wouldn't have ANY Wildebeast.

Currently the Mortality rate is very high for young snapper. Based on Hilton's claims and some analysis of current research, that rate would have to decrease with addition of structure. If not we would see smaller numbers at other reefs since they would be "pulled" from those to populate these new reefs. Fisherman in Alabama with their current regulations and over their reefs can't catch fish fast enough to keep the population down. Even with help from the commercials. Hilton is saying we need to add more "watering holes" correct?
 
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