CCA Kicks Off Next Phase in Red Snapper Recovery

CCA Texas
CCA Kicks Off Next Phase in Red Snapper Recovery
CCA-funded study will examine effectiveness of recreational catch-and-release practices.

Less than a month after winning a precedent-setting victory to reduce the impact of shrimp trawl bycatch on Gulf red snapper stocks, Coastal Conservation Association has funded the next step in its ongoing strategy for the conservation of the fishery. CCA Texas approved a request to fund a study at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute to assess the catch-and-release mortality of recreationally caught red snapper and to develop best practices for handling and proper release.

"The only way to address a complicated fishery issue like red snapper is with a methodical, systematic approach," said Mark Ray, chairman of CCA Texas. "We believe our lawsuit and the Gulf Council's subsequent decision earlier this month to reduce shrimp trawl bycatch by 74 percent from 2001-2003 levels laid the foundation for red snapper recovery. Now we are prepared to move on to other factors, including reducing recreational bycatch."

At its meeting earlier this week, CCA Texas' board of directors approved the request to fund a $37,000 catch-and-release study to be conducted by Dr. Scott Holt and Dr. Joan Holt of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas. The study will involve catching undersized red snapper from depths of 50 to 300 feet at different times of year. Researchers will retain a number of fish in various stages of health for observation; experiments will be developed to evaluate the influence of season, depth, initial condition after capture and venting on the overall survival of released red snapper.

"There is a lot of contention out there among anglers about how effective catch-and-release is for deep-dwelling fish, and there are a lot of different opinions floating around. We feel we need to put our money where our mouth is and get the science that will help us make the best decisions for this fishery," said Robby Byers, executive director of CCA Texas. "There is no question recreational anglers have a role to play in the future of red snapper, and we want to make sure we have the best information available to do our part."

Numerous studies have been conducted on the release mortality of red snapper since 2000, producing a wide range of estimates. The UTMSI study is designed to fill in some of the gaps in the current body of science and bring a new look to this important factor in the management of Gulf red snapper."It is going to take a holistic approach and a long-term commitment to find solutions to all the challenges facing red snapper," said Pat Murray, CCA director of conservation. "No single thing is going to fix this fishery, but we are steadily putting the pieces together. From improving catch-and-release practices to enhancing habitat, CCA is committed to the recovery of this important species."