Outdoors

Senator leads way on more data on Gulf red snapper populations

Kenny Bellais of Fish On charters shows off a successful red snapper catch during a recent Billfish Tournament at Point Cadet Marina.
Kenny Bellais of Fish On charters shows off a successful red snapper catch during a recent Billfish Tournament at Point Cadet Marina. ttisbell@sunherald.com File

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby paved the way for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to land a multimillion-dollar grant to innovate Gulf of Mexico reef-fish survey assessments and technologies.

This $9.5 million grant program, authored by Shelby, is directed by the 2016 Appropriations Act. The goal is to produce a more-accurate estimate of Gulf red snapper populations and improve fishing access.

“The sportfishing industry applauds Senator Shelby for creating this program and listening to the thousands of anglers and recreational fishing-dependent businesses who see historic numbers of red snapper resources at the same time the government is cutting back on fishing days,” said Scott Gudes, American Sportsfishing Association vice president of government affairs, in a press release.

“NOAA will be funding external proposals by fishermen, educational institutions and others outside the National Marine Fisheries Service to survey red snapper and other reef fish in areas like oil rigs and reefs where the current government surveys just aren’t looking.”

Gulf red snapper populations are at an all-time high, but access for recreational anglers is low. The recreational fishing community believes NOAA’s assessment of the population underestimates the true abundance of Gulf red snapper.

“We hope these fully independent surveys and new technology will lead to a new assessment and allocations that better align with the actual abundance of red snapper and its economic impact,” Gudes said.

James Jones: 228-896-2320, @_jkjones

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