Recreational and commercial fishers will be able to catch red snapper off the South Carolina coast in limited amounts next month.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will allow South Atlantic anglers to keep their catch during the second and third weekends of August. The agency’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published the new regulation in the Federal Register on Thursday. Commercial fishing will be allowed starting Thursday.
Harvesting red snapper from the South Atlantic was prohibited in 2010 as NOAA worked to restore a population it said was depleted by overfishing. The agency allowed limited catches from 2012-2014, but halted the harvest as the resulting catch exceeded what it considered “acceptable.”
“It’s obvious from looking out in the field, that the stock is rebuilding,” South Carolina Office of Fisheries Management director Mel Bell said. “The stock’s rebuilding, but it’s just taking time.”
Commercial fishing for red snapper will be permitted after Thursday until companies report reaching a total catch limit of 42,510 fish. After that, the season will be closed again. Recreational fishing will be allowed for only two weekends: August 10-12 and August 17-19. Recreational anglers will be limited to one fish per person per day.
Bell said previous stock assessments found the population is recovering, but many of the snappers are not successfully laying sufficient eggs until they reach an older age than previously expected.
“It’s frustrating for fishermen, because they’re catching a lot of them (by accident),” Bell said. “But until we get through the next stock assessment and determine how things are looking quantitatively across the whole area, we’re going to stay on the course that we’re on.”
NOAA expects to open the 2019 season in July, but will make a final decision after reviewing population numbers and this year’s harvest.
South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources is encouraging anglers to drop off their unused carcasses at several locations along the coast to help further research of the fish.