Friday, December 10, 2010

SAFMC Conclude Large Area Closure Unnecessary for Recovery of Red Snapper Stock

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    CONTACT:  Kim Iverson
December 10, 2010                                      Public Information Officer
                                                                     Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10 or 843/571-4366

Red Snapper Moratorium to Remain but
Managers Find Large Area Closure Unnecessary

     Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, meeting in New Bern, NC this week, concluded that a 4,800-square mile area closure off the coast of southern Georgia and north/central Florida where the harvest of snapper grouper species would be prohibited is unnecessary.   The area closure, included in Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan, was initially proposed by the Council to further reduce the fishing mortality of red snapper by restricting fishing for 73 species of snappers, groupers, grunts, triggerfish, and other species in the snapper grouper management complex that commonly co-occur with red snapper.
     Management measures in Amendment 17A are designed to end overfishing of red snapper as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  Measures in the amendment approved by the Secretary of Commerce on December 3, 2010, continue a moratorium on the harvest of red snapper for both commercial and recreational fishermen in federal waters (ranging from 3 to 200 miles) throughout the South Atlantic region.
     Regulations in Amendment 17A implementing the area closure were delayed by NOAA Fisheries Service, giving the Council time to review information from a new red snapper stock assessment completed in October 2010.  In anticipation of the new stock assessment, the Council had requested staff begin to develop Regulatory Amendment 10 to look at options for modifying the area closure if necessary.  Regulatory Amendment 10 includes various alternatives, which the Council considered, including an alternative to eliminate the area closure.
     After reviewing the alternatives in Regulatory Amendment 10 and the latest scientific information, and considering public comment received at the meeting, the Council voted to approve the alternative in the regulatory amendment that will eliminate the area closure. The unanimous decision was made after considering recent data relative to the updated stock assessment for red snapper and other factors influencing the harvest of red snapper.
     “The Council considered a number of factors before deciding to eliminate the area closure off southern Georgia and the north/central coast of Florida,” said Council Chairman David Cupka. “We considered the reductions required by the new stock assessment, the impacts of the current prohibition on red snapper, the reduction in fishing trips as documented by the most recent recreational data, comments received from hundreds of fishermen regarding the larger numbers of red snapper available and the effects of the downturn in the economy that have negatively impacted fishing activities.”
      According to the recent stock assessment, a 70% reduction in fishing mortality (including dead discards) is required to end overfishing for red snapper. Initial analyses incorporating effort reductions from recent regulations suggested the moratorium on fishing for red snapper was not adequate to end overfishing.   However, reductions in effort are possibly greater than expected from regulatory impacts alone and the decline in recreational red snapper mortality under the moratorium during 2010 may be greater than initially estimated.  For example, the most recent preliminary data from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) for the private and charter sectors, including January through August 2010, show a 33% decline in fishing trips in the South Atlantic region compared to 2007-2009 and about an 80% decline in red snapper mortality.  This reduction in fishing effort is consistent with fishermen’s reports and possibly reflects the current economic downturn, while the decline in mortality may reflect fishermen's efforts to avoid red snapper.  Incorporating the mortality reductions observed in the 2010 preliminary MRIP data suggested the current moratorium could provide as much as a 77% reduction in total mortality.
      “The Council will continue to closely monitor the Fishery Independent Sampling Program now in place for red snapper to follow the results of the continued moratorium on the harvest of red snapper,” explained Chairman Cupka.  “We are hopeful that the stock assessment scheduled for 2013 will show a marked improvement in the red snapper stock and managers will be able to allow some harvest as the stock continues to rebuild.”
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils, conserves and manages fish stocks from three to 200 miles offshore of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida.

Cold Weather May Lead to Fish Kills

Remember last January when there was a long cold spell in our region? During that time there were a lot of fish kills because of the prolonged cold weather. Well, now that we are experiencing that cold weather again, there could be the chance of fish kills in our local waters. Even though there may be more fish kills because of the colder than normal weather there is no cause for alarm or concern. These are natural occurrences and generally do not cause permanent damage to the ecosystem or to fish populations. It actually could be beneficial in that it helps to limit the spread of invasive, exotic species.
Fish kills are often caused by sudden temperature changes or by extended periods of extreme temperatures. This can occur anytime of year in Florida but most commonly occurs in the winter when the air temperature drops. Even though the water does stay relatively warm after the air cools, if there is an extended period of cold this can cause the water temperatures in inland waters and estuaries to drop. The fish may be killed outright by cold stress or the cold may just weaken them so they are more susceptible to disease. Warm-water species, including snook (native) and tilapia (exotic) are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures.
Fish affected by the cold may appear lethargic and may be seen at the surface where the water may be warmer from the sun. All recreational regulations still apply to fish impacted by the cold temperatures, even if they appear to be dead or dying. It's important for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) scientists to keep track of the location and extent of fish kills in natural water bodies in order to determine if there are problems developing in the ecosystem that might require further investigation. Although it is not necessary to report fish kills in private ponds, FWC scientists can assist the public by providing information about cold-weather fish kills in these ponds.
The public can report fish kills in natural water bodies (lakes, estuaries, rivers) to the FWC at or call the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. For more information on fish kills, visit and select "Fish and Wildlife Health" under the "Explore" section.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Florida Master Naturalist Classes Being Held in 2011

Do you want to learn more about native Florida?  Do you wish you could go on all the fun trips that the kids normally get to experience?  Are you looking for CEU’s or In-Service Credits?  Do you just want to get outside and have some fun?  Florida Master Naturalist Program classes are online for registration in Brevard County at Riverwalk: A Family Park.  Explore rare coastal hammocks, paddle through area wetlands, poke around at the life teeming under the Indian River Lagoon, and much, much more.  
Get 40 contact hours of classroom and field experience exploring Florida ecosystems.  Class fees include all trip costs, a 1,000+ page student book filled with information, a Master Naturalist patch, pin, and certificate.  Successful graduates are also registered into the UF/IFAS Master Naturalist database as a certified Master Naturalist in each module’s area of study. 
The Wetlands module starts February 5th, while the Coastal Module begins April 2nd.  Each module runs for 7 Saturdays.  The cost is $225 per person.  Come join us for your favorite module or experience more of what Florida has to offer by taking both.  Create some great memories while meeting new people and learn a little something in the process. 
Go to for more information and to register today.  Registration closes one week before the first class of each module.  Contact the primary instructor, Brandon Smith, at or 321-433-4490 with any specific questions.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Local Seafood Class This Wednesday Evening!

A Local Seafood Class is being offered this Wednesday, December 8th at the Brevard County Extension Office at 3695 Lake Drive, Cocoa, FL. This class was first offered in August 2010 and was a huge success with 43 people attending! Cost to attend is $10 and includes a cooking demonstration with tasting of the recipes shown. Please pre-register at by clicking on the Class Registration link at the top of the left column. We hope to see you there!

NOAA Fisheries Service Announces the Publication of a Final Rule Intended to End Overfishing of Red Snapper in the South Atlantic

On December 3rd, the NOAA Fisheries Service published a final rule to implement Amendment 17A to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region, which addresses overfishing of red snapper in the South Atlantic. Important dates to remember:
  • The prohibition on all harvest and possession of red snapper is effective immediately, December 3, 2010.
  • The snapper-grouper area closure has been delayed until June 1, 2011. This is to allow time for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to consider the results of a new red snapper stock assessment completed in late October 2010. Based on the stock assessment, changes may be made to the current closure area.
  • The requirement to use non-stainless steel circle hooks north of 28 degrees N. latitude is effective March 3, 2011.
Electronic copies of Amendment 17A may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Service Web site at, the e-Rulemaking Portal at docket number NOAA-NMFS-2010-0035, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Web site at, or for hard copies contact:
NOAA Fisheries Service
Southeast Regional Office
Sustainable Fisheries Division
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701