The most controversial fishery in U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) is for northern red snapper Lutjanus campechanus, which collapsed in the late 1980s when stock biomass became too low to be fished commercially in the eastern Gulf. Red snapper management began in 1989; the stock is now showing signs of recovery. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has been slow to sufficiently reduce catches of the directed fisheries to rebuild the stock in a timely fashion, although compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA) required substantial cuts in the harvest of red snapper beginning in 2007. In our opinion, this could have been avoided if conservative management practices had been adopted earlier. We believe that ‘faith-based fisheries’ arguments have been used to defer effective management of red snapper in the Gulf, which in turn has strained the relationship between science, management, and stakeholders there. We provide a simple empirical argument and alternate interpretations of a recently published perspective on the historical fishery of red snapper in the Gulf to conclude that the preponderance of evidence used in the agency stock assessment process, and the simple arguments made here, do not support the perspective that the red snapper stock has increased in size sufficiently to defer compliance with the MSRA.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 3, 2010
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