NOAA Fisheries Announces Its Latest Failure: Too Many Red Snapper in the South Atlantic to Allow Anglers More than One Day of Fishing

June 12, 2024

Washington, D.C. – June 12, 2024 – NOAA Fisheries just announced they are unable to manage success: Despite a biomass of South Atlantic red snapper greater than any time in history, the 2024 season for recreational harvest will be open for only one day.

“NOAA is supposed to be America’s science agency. But as long as NOAA Fisheries is content to use its discredited data system and highly questionable discard data, it can apparently make up any regulation it wants in response to a crisis that doesn’t exist,” said Center for Sportfishing Policy President Jeff Angers. “For whatever reason, NOAA seems intent on limiting public access to an abundant natural resource. Anglers should be extremely worried where this is heading.”

Despite a burgeoning population of red snapper in the region, anglers are frustrated by an inflexible management system that severely restricts their fishing opportunities. During discussions at the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting this week in Daytona, NOAA officials have not offered guidance on how to improve the data situation other than draconian plans to reduce the number of anglers allowed to fish offshore – and agency threats of additional “Secretarial” actions. 

“Instead of improving its recreational data system to eliminate errors, NOAA is preferring to simply eliminate angling opportunities,” said Angers. “This is an agency on the wrong track.”

Red snapper have been under a strict management regime since 2008 when NOAA’s stock assessment found the fishery severely overfished. Although the population has rebounded spectacularly in the intervening 16 years, angler access has not increased. NOAA Fisheries now claims that the abundance of red snapper leads to high encounter rates during the closed season, with many fish not surviving release. Despite unreliable release and mortality data, the fishery remains in a “recovery trap,” where the abundant population results in minimal legal fishing opportunities for anglers.