The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

July 16, 2013

2nd red snapper season likely in the Gulf

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One of the most popular fish in the Gulf of Mexico has rebounded enough to allow a second season this year for red snapper, scientists say.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meets in New Orleans on Wednesday to consider increased fishing quotas and a second 2013 season for red snapper, one of the region's most popular game and eating fish.

"This is a real pivotal moment in fisheries management. We've got a population that's rebuilding in impressive fashion," said Libby Featherston, deputy director of fish conservation for the environmental nonprofit Ocean Conservancy.

Options on the agenda include leaving the quota and the federal season that ended June 28 untouched. But nobody expects that. After all, the council has a regularly scheduled meeting next month in San Antonio; Wednesday's was scheduled to leave time for steps necessary before a season could begin in September or October.

"I think everyone's in favor of increasing the quota and allowing the stock to rebuild," Featherston said.

She said the only other time she could remember the council setting a supplemental season was in 2010, when the BP PLC oil spill kept much of the Gulf of Mexico closed to fishing through the June federal season. Anglers didn't catch their quota — always 49 percent of the total — so the council held an emergency meeting and reopened the recreational fishery for a series of weekends.

Scientists assess the stock every few years. The latest assessment became final in May, too late to use it to set this year's quota of 8.46 million pounds. But it indicates that the total could be set higher.

The council will consider whether to let this year's current quota stand or increase it to 10 million, 11 million, 11.5 million or 12.1 million pounds.

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