In the South Atlantic region of the United States, stock of species like snapper and grouper are dwindling. Red snapper government assessments from 2008 show that the species is being overfished at eight times the sustainable level. But a government plan could save 10 species.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is currently working on important changes to fishing rules that would strengthen limits on the numbers of fish caught annually, prohibit fishing in some areas of the ocean where imperiled fish live and limit certain kinds of fishing so populations have time to replenish themselves.
Such changes have precedent. The Pew Environment’s Holly Binns explains:
In the past, smart fishery management decisions have yielded success for both people and fish. For example, the king mackerel is a prized catch for many fishermen. But in the early 1980s, scientists knew the fish was in danger of being depleted. Based on scientific research, federal fishery managers made some highly controversial decisions. In 1985, they slashed the allowable catch from 14.4 million to 5.2 million pounds. The following year, managers imposed recreational size and bag limits.
After two decades of careful management, king mackerel have increased from a low of about 4 million fish in 1984 to 17.2 million fish in 2006. Today, the king mackerel is an example of how an overfished species can recover and support a vibrant fishing industry if managers implement science-based fish rebuilding plans.
Ending overfishing of snapper and grouper makes long-term sense from both a conservation side and an economic side. In less than 10 years, the population of red snapper would skyrocket — and with it, so could catches of the species. Scientific projections suggest that it could be as high as a 25-fold increase, from 78,000 pounds of fish in 2006 to nearly 2 million pounds by 2036. With red snapper at just 3 percent of historic levels, it’s time to take action.
The red snapper’s not the only species at risk; the speckled hind, warsaw grouper, golden tilefish, snowy grouper, black grouper, black sea bass, gag, red grouper and vermilion snapper are all at risk. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s plan would provide science-based protections for these species to ensure their depletion doesn’t become permanent.
Fishing interests will be out in force to try to stop this species preservation — so we need thousands of signatures to come in supporting the amendments! We need your signature by November 22 in order to hand-deliver it to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to be included as part of the public comment period. Add your signature today!