Gulf of Mexico Great Red Snapper Count Reveals Significant Problems with Federal Management

On October 1, the preliminary results of what has been called “The Great Red Snapper Count” were presented to Congress, and as expected by many, revealed that there are far more red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico than the current system of federal stock assessments estimates.

Led by the Harte Research Institute, the “Great Red Snapper Count” was funded by a $10 million Congressional appropriation championed by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) that enlisted multiple scientists across more than a dozen research institutions to take a closer look at red snapper abundance in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the course of two years, using new technologies and by sampling previously unsampled areas, the preliminary results indicate the population is likely up to three-times larger than currently estimated.

“This study really highlights the importance of managing a fishery based more on fishery-independent sampling, or what we actually see in the water today, versus trying to manage a fishery based on a lot of assumptions in complex mathematical models that rely predominantly on the past,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Senior Director of Fisheries Policy, Chris Horton. “Currencies, timeseries and model sensitivities don’t mean a whole lot if they’re wrong from the start. I’m hopeful the results of this study will fundamentally change the way our marine fisheries are managed for the better.”

The results of “The Great Red Snapper Count” are expected to be incorporated in a 2021 interim Gulf red snapper stock assessment. There will likely be more to this story as the specific findings and data for the study are revealed in the coming months.

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