Why require mandatory reporting now?
The credibility of the current federal surveys used to estimate recreational red snapper harvests among private and charter anglers has been under ever increasing scrutiny. The estimate of Alabama’s 2013 red snapper harvest was twice as much as in 2012 yet the season length was nearly the same for both years. Very few people would disagree that the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery is improving. In fact, recent stock assessments are showing signs that the stock is improving faster than expected. However, recent changes to the federal law that governs how red snapper are managed have led to the imposition of stricter regulations each year with slim hopes for improvement. A timely and accurate method of counting fish such as the mandatory reporting program could improve the predicament we face in this fishery.
Who needs to report?
Representatives from recreational vessels with red snapper on board are required to report red snapper prior to landing fish in Alabama. The captain or owner of the vessel with red snapper on board is the responsible party for reporting required information; however, anyone on the vessel can report the information.
How do I report the required information?
Information can be reported through one of the following methods; smartphone app for iOS and Android devices found under the Official Outdoor Alabama App (or Alabama fishing regulations by Pocket Ranger) at respective app stores, online at www.outdooralabama.com, or on paper forms found at select coastal public boat launches. Only one report is required per trip with harvested red snapper.
What information is required on the report?
Required information includes the vessel registration number (state or federal), number of anglers on vessel, total number of red snapper harvested and discarded dead, county of landing, and trip type (private or charter). Date and time of report is required when submitting paper reports found at select coastal public boat launches.
Will reported data be checked for accuracy?
Although reporting is mandatory some trips may not be reported or the information being reported may not be accurate. In order to determine the rates of these unreported data, Marine Resources Division staff will visit coastal marinas and boat launches and interview anglers with red snapper catches. Dockside data will assist to adjust reported data for under- or over-reporting. Validation procedures are needed to verify that the reported data encompasses a high number of actual trips. The higher the confidence fisheries managers have of the data the greater its value will be.
Why don’t I have to report weights and lengths?
Requiring anglers to measure and weigh fish using standardized methods would be problematic. However, as the quota is measured in pounds of fish harvested weights and lengths will be collected by Marine Resources Division staff when conducting dockside interviews. An average weight of fish will be applied to the number of harvested fish to generate the number of pounds harvested.
Do red snapper harvested from other state’s waters need to be reported?
Yes. Regardless of where red snapper are harvested a vessel landing report will be required if landing fish in Alabama. Landing is defined as when seafood is transferred from a vessel to land or to a pier, dock, bulkhead attached to land or when a vessel is hauled onto land via a trailer.
Will reported information be used to initiate enforcement investigations?
No. Enforcement action would only be triggered if an officer checked a person that landed red snapper and the snapper were not reported at the time of the check. Confirmation numbers are provided when reports are completed using the app, phone and web and paper reports are uniquely numbered.
Should I participate in a creel survey if I completed a red snapper trip report?
Yes. The traditional survey methods used by federal fisheries managers to estimate effort and catches of red snapper and other species of fish will continue during the red snapper season and the remainder of the year. Data from Alabama’s new reporting system will be compared directly to the estimates from those surveys when it comes available later this year.
Will this program increase the number of days I can fish for red snapper?
With your cooperation an accurate count of the fish harvested can be achieved. We will be able to compare landings from this program with the estimates generated from the federal surveys. Whether the difference is measured by hundreds of thousands of pounds of tens of thousands of pounds remains to be seen. Either way, if landings from the mandatory reporting program match 2014’s estimate from the federal surveys it will reduce the uncertainty in the federal survey and could improve the outcome of future stock assessments. If landings from the mandatory program are much lower than the federal surveys’ estimate it could lead to an increased season length for future years because federal managers were overestimating average daily harvests when setting the season. Other Gulf States have either begun or will begin alternative approaches to collecting recreational red snapper landings information. Their results may also impact how red snapper are managed in the Gulf so stay tuned.
Have additional questions? Email Marine Resources