NOAA Fisheries has announced that the commercial annual catch limit has been reached and will therefore close commercial fishing for yellowtail snapper in Florida on September 11. Grey triggerfish harvest will be closed on that date as well. Commercial harvest would remain closed until January 1, 2013.
Many recreational fishermen fear that recreational harvest may be shut down as well, but the State of Florida is currently conducting a new stock assessment on yellowtail and there’s widespread hope that this assessment will offer brighter picture of the stock and allow managers to reopen the fishery on an emergency basis.
Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami (R-FL), a consistent and vocal supporter of South Florida and the Florida Keys recreational, commercial, and charter fishermen, yesterday sent a letter to the NOAA Fisheries Service expressing her desire for a timely solution to the impending closure. In her letter, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen urged Regional NOAA Administrator Dr. Roy E. Crabtree to facilitate an emergency meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Committee on Scientific & Statistical Selection as soon as possible to peer review the latest data. This peer review is a required step before Crabtree could issue an emergency rule that would re-open the fishery.
The 2006 revisions to the Magnuson–Stevens Act force fishery managers to make decisions on mandatory Annual Catch Limits, often based on out-of-date, faulty, or speculative data. These decisions can have far-reaching consequences, especially when they concern a species like yellowtail snapper, which is so vital to both commercial and recreational fishermen in South Florida.