March 23, 2020

Angling and Boating Community Supports Descending Device Amendment in the South Atlantic

On March 20, leaders of the recreational fishing and boating community submitted a letter to the Department of Commerce urging approval of Amendment 29 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan approved by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) in September 2019. Amendment 29 would require anglers fishing for snapper and grouper species in South Atlantic federal waters to have a descending device onboard and ready for use.

As the red snapper population in the South Atlantic rebuilds, they are caught more frequently by anglers fishing for other species outside of the relatively short red snapper season. Though they are released, a significant portion of the released fish die due to barotrauma, a condition that results from increased pressure of internal gasses in fish caught near the bottom and rapidly brought to the surface. They often cannot swim back down without assistance and die on the surface. The estimated number of dead discards is very high in the South Atlantic region and few fish are available for harvest each year as a result. 

The use of descending devices would help to reduce discard mortality by assisting released fish get back down to the depth from which they are caught. Addressing dead discard mortality of red snapper in the South Atlantic should eventually lead to more fish to harvest and additional days on the water. Currently, the 2020 red snapper season in the South Atlantic is uncertain but will be just three days if approved.   

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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