The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Red Snapper Ban: It’s About Time

January 5th, 2010 · 11 Comments · Posted in food news, Sustainability

A fish that needs time to recover

A fish that needs time to recover

A federal ban on fishing red snapper went into effect this week from Florida to the Carolinas and officials are considering banning fishing of any kind in a large area of Atlantic waters.

Fishermen don’t like the ban much and some groups are threatening to file suit, arguing that federal agencies should consider economic impacts before banning fishing. But the red snapper has long been on the list of fish to “avoid” at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, precisely because it has been so overfished.

The red snapper is a noble species that can live 50 years and grow to more than 20 pounds. But fish that old and that large are rarely seen any more, a sign of how badly the stock has been depleted. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that the red snapper population is just 3 percent of what it was 60 years ago.

So if you see red snapper for sale on a restaurant menu or at the supermarket, don’t buy it, and tell your local merchant he shouldn’t be selling it.

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  • Dara Bunjon


    Trying to reach you – I see no contact. Just signed up to follow you on twitter. Please reach out.


  • Frank Hoskins

    You have no idea how WRONG you are. They may be endangered in the Atlantic but they are so plentiful along the Gulf coast that it is difficult to catch any other species when bottom fishing. Many fish are caught over 20# even 30#

  • Ed Bruske

    Thanks for weighin in on this, Frank. Since I can’t personally monitor what’s happening with red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, I rely on information primarily dsitributed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium through it’s “Seafood Watch” program and it’s many marine scientists. Last time a checked, just a minute ago, Seafood Watch still gave Gulf of Mexico red snapper a red “Avoid!” rating. This is what they say:

    “The largest U.S. fishery for “true” red snapper is in the Gulf of Mexico. Although management measures are in place, the U.S. has not been able to prevent significant population declines of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. This population is considered overfished and still undergoing overfishing.

    Red snapper is also often caught accidentally in the nets of shrimp fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. These shrimp fisheries are attempting to reduce accidental catch of snapper, especially the young fish, and there is a management plan that aims to return snapper populations back to healthy and abundant levels. However, this is predicted to take until at least 2032.

    Much of the snapper imported into the U.S. comes from Brazil and Mexico. Limited information on snapper from other countries suggests that snapper may also be overfished in many other regions of the world and therefore are also on the “Avoid” list.”

    As soon as Seafood Watch changes its rating and recommends consumers eat red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico, I will happily pass that on to my readers.

  • Gulf Girl

    Frank you are indeed correct. The gulf is full of red snapper. I should know since I live along the Gulf Coast and fish it quite often.

    Ed…relying on data provided by anyone other than someone that lives along the Gulf coast will always be wrong. There are so many snapper swimming here in our waters that it is difficult to target any other species when bottom fishing. You need to speak with local divers along the Gulf Coast if you truly want accurate numbers and information on the red snapper population. I mean no disrespect but I truly feel that you have no interest in accurate information because if you did you would not rely on an organization from California to tell you what’s up in the Gulf of Mexico. That makes about as much sense as me giving out information about fish in San Francisco Bay from here along the Gulf coast in Florida.

    To everyone else…enjoy the red snapper! It is one of the best fish the Gulf has to offer!

  • Ed Bruske

    Gulf Girl, I am glad to hear you have so many snapper where you are. But, really. Do you think the scientists at Seafood Watch are taking their snapper counts from their desks in California?

    Here’s a link to the 56-page Seafood Watch report on snapper:

    There are seven pages of references. The data comes from sources in the Gulf, not California.

  • Gulf Girl

    Well Ed….I understand completely now where you are coming from. That was a rather long report to weed my way through but after having done so, I now see where you ultimately get your data… NMFS…and from how long ago it was…original report 2004, last update 2009. That has always been a beef of mine with NMFS in that they rely on data that does not reflect current trends. Here is a bit of news that might be a surprise to you and NMFS, it is now 2011 in my part of the country and a lot can happen over a few years…like the snapper stocks are increasing in some areas of the Gulf. I am specifically referring to areas 9-14 on page 8 of your report just in case you might have thought I didn’t actually read it. These are areas I have first hand knowledge of as these are the areas that I have fished extensively over the last 12 years or so.

    Let me explain it how I see it. I have no doubt that red snapper “may” be in danger in some areas of the Gulf in the southern most regions. What I do not agree with is that they are in danger in all areas of the Gulf (like those I mentioned above). These locations have extensive areas of natural bottom as well as extensive areas of artificial reefs that provide the snapper the needed habitat to do well population wise. That is why our population of snapper is increasing by large numbers each year. I am not just talking juvenile snapper either…I am speaking of large 30+ inch snapper. Snapper will stay where the habitat that supports them is located. To lump all areas of the Gulf into one is a flawed approach that NMFS has long been guilty of. They are only interested in the “big picture” and have no desire to see smaller snapshots of what is really going on and what is working in areas of the Gulf to increase the stock. They have imposed catch limits Gulf wide and states bordering the Gulf have followed suit for fear of losing funding or what ever their reasoning may be. Texas is the only state to pretty much tell NMFS to take a hike and their snapper population is doing quite well from what I hear from friends that fish there regularly. Snapper are so plentiful off the coast of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisana that they are a serious threat to the populations of other fish like grouper. Lots of big snapper eat lots of baby grouper…can’t say I blame them though…grouper is the bomb.

    If NMFS truly wants to address the snapper population Gulfwide then they need to look at banning commercial fishing for them. That sure would solve the problem wouldn’t it. Recreational anglers are not the source of the problems with snapper population but NMFS is trying their darndest to make it seem as though they are the root of all evil. I doubt very seriously that the 2 snapper a day limit that is imposed on me as a recreational angler over a very short snapper season (measured in days) will even begin to put a dent in our local populations. You can bet on opening day of red snapper season I will be in the Gulf to get my 2 fish. Tell you what…I will ignore the 16″ size limit and only keep fish that are over 20″. How’s that for doing my part? I’ll give those litte fishes a chance to get bigger before I go back next year and catch them. Thanks NMFS…way to go.

    Ed, you have a great day and if you are ever down around the Gulf coast I would suggest you book a fishing trip while you are here. It might just change the way you think….just kidding…I doubt it would ever change the way you think but you would have a blast. If you are a diver, you might want to arrange a dive charter… I think you would be amazed at what you would see. Of course you could just do a Google search and look for some diving video off the Florida coast…just saying. “Vimeo” is a good site to find some outstanding footage.

    I am done and have said my peace. I know better than to argue with fools and idiots…you know the old saying.

  • Ed Bruske

    Gulf Girl, thanks for this thoughtful comment. You have indeed identified a number of valid issues. My area of concern is not with sport fishing, but to advise my readers–consumers of commercial fish, presumably–of where things stand with certain species. As a matter of policy, I rely principally for those recommendations on the Seafood Watch program at Monterey Bay Aquarium. As you rightly point out, those recommendations are not always up to the minute, nor are they especially nuanced in identifying areas within certain bodies of water where conditions may vary. It’s a broad brush approach. But so far, it’s the best anyone has been able to come up with for the helpless shoppers who are caught in front of the seafood display at the supermarket, wondering what they should buy.

    If this means that snappers proliferate and get bigger in the meantime, so much the better. It seems to me this just works to the advantage of anglers like yourself, who know what the deal is with the local fish as of yesterday. Happy fishing. I would love to take you up on your offer and will let you know next time I am in that neck of the woods–assuming you still want a fool and an idiot on your boat.

  • Gulf Girl

    You sir…made me laugh out loud with that last comment. It certainly would not be the first time. I have had the pleasure to have both a fool and an idiot on the boat at the same time.

    I meant no disrespect to you…you are entitled to your opinion just as I am entitled to mine. I just happen to think I have a bit better perspective on the issue since I live in the area in question and know the waters well. I also know it is a foolish thing to try and argue a point with someone over something such as this. I just wanted to point out a few things.

    I don’t do much shopping at the fish market but the one piece of advice I would give folks would be to plan a vacation to the Gulf Coast and do a little fishing themselves. The weather is beautiful…the beaches are white and the fish are biting. Tight lines to you sir.

  • Ed

    Great discussion. I grew up and fished all my life in areas where most couldn’t catch fish so insisted there were none. I never could understand, when my freezer was always full.
    Fish population certainly has been hampered by commercial fishing, and allowing netters in where they can desimate the population is a big problem. Polution was and remains a problem too.
    I hope I can get down to the Gulf for a day or two with those snapper. I haven’t been there for a while, and thoughts of great weather and fresh fish dinner sound great. I’ll play idiot and fool too, if someone wanted invite me out on there boat.
    Be happy

  • Anonymous

    The picture shows blackfin snapper not red snapper

  • Ed Bruske

    This is why consumers never know what they’re really buying at the the fish counter.