Red snapper season to close July 18

Recreational season for red snapper in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico will close at midnight, July 18, the Gulf of Mexico Fisher Management Council said today in a press release.

The closure was established to limit the harvest of red snapper in the Gulf and help rebuild overfished stocks so that anglers can enjoy better red snapper fishing in the future.

The recreational red snapper season, which is usually is June 1 to September 30, has consistently closed early since it was established.

In June, the Council asked NOAA Fisheries Service to develop an emergency rule that suspends the September 30 recreational red snapper closure date, giving the Regional Administrator more leeway to open a fall season if/when the quota is not met during the summer season.

The Gulf Council is working on an amendment that could revise the structure of the fall recreational snapper season. Currently, the three actions contained in the amendment are: -- Revise or eliminate the fixed closed season. Currently, the recreational red snapper season must close by September 30. Pushing back or eliminating the closure date will give the Council more management options.

-- Allow weekends only, or weekdays only fishing periods. This gives the council more options for in-season management.

-- Increase the 2012 red snapper Total Allowable Catch based on the 2011 red snapper rerun analysis.

Public hearings for this regulatory amendment will be held sometime after the August 2011 Council meeting.