Today’s announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that it will provide a $9.5 million competitive grant to determine the abundance of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico is being praised by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy, Jr. says this action would not have taken place without the efforts of Senator Richard Shelby (R.-Ala.). 

“I would like to thank Sen. Shelby for funding important improvements in the federal red snapper management program and for working with Gulf states, anglers and local businesses that have been hurt by extremely short red snapper seasons even though the red snapper population appears very robust,” he said. 

“I would also like to acknowledge the leadership of the Marine Resources Division (MRD) for pushing for better stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico and developing the methods that will be used in this Gulf-wide population estimate,” Guy added. 

For the past three years, MRD has required representatives from recreational vessels with red snapper on board to report their harvests through the Snapper Check program prior to landing fish in Alabama. Snapper Check shows that Alabama’s red snapper harvest is considerably less than the federal estimate. MRD Director Chris Blankenship hopes the new assessment will lead to a longer red snapper season. “We want to give fishermen more access and also be able to sustainably manage the red snapper fishery the way that it needs to be managed.” 

Results from the independent study funded by the grant will be compared to NOAA’s internal estimates and will be used in future Gulf fisheries management decisions. The grant will be administered by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.