The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has been notified that its Snapper Check harvest reporting program used to monitor red snapper landings has been certified by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. Certification by the federal agency means that Snapper Check red snapper harvest estimates can be included in the federal stock assessment for management of this important resource.
Alabama’s Snapper Check reporting program became mandatory in May 2014 to provide a means by which near real-time estimates of the total number and weight of recreationally caught red snapper landed in Alabama could be determined to maintain harvests within allowable limits. Many Alabama fishermen, along with ADCNR’s Marine Resources Division staff, felt that the federal survey used was overestimating red snapper harvest. This, combined with the lengthy period of time needed to produce estimates, contributed to dramatically shortened red snapper seasons.
Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon says NOAA Fisheries’ certification is a step in the right direction for Alabama’s red snapper fishery. “We know that anglers are frustrated with short red snapper seasons. With their cooperation, we have been able to demonstrate that Snapper Check can provide more timely, accurate data on what is being harvested. Now that NOAA Fisheries has recognized that our program is scientifically valid, this is a huge step forward in managing the fishery,” he said.
Snapper Check reporting is required of both charter and private boat operators landing red snapper in Alabama and the program consists of two complementary components: an electronic reporting system and a dockside access point intercept survey. The electronically reported information by anglers is validated and corrected using information observed through the dockside intercept survey. Looking forward, ADCNR and NOAA Fisheries staff will work together to address any issues associated with the capture-recapture survey design.
Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said assistance from Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and Representative Bradley Byrne has been vital to allowing the Gulf states to be more involved in managing red snapper. “All the Gulf States have been working together to come up with a viable solution to the red snapper management problem. I am very appreciative of the assistance of our legislators in Washington, D.C.,” he said.