The south Atlantic red snapper season shrunk to just 2 days this year.
Now, according to U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, who represents Northeast Florida in Congress, there’s talk of eliminating it all together next year.
Action News Jax’s John Bachman spoke to Rutherford on Monday afternoon about this. Rutherford and a bipartisan group of senators and U.S. Representatives sent a letter to federal regulators urging them not to close the season or worse, stop all bottom fishing in the Atlantic.
Bachman: “They’re talking about closing down red snapper season entirely. This is first I’m hearing of this.”
Rutherford: “What they’re talking about closure of bottom fishing in these areas. So it’s not just red snapper, you wouldn’t be able to bottom fish at all.”
Last summer, Action News Jax went red snapper fishing with Rutherford. He has been pushing for a longer season, not shorter.
Rutherford said in 2018, the six-day red snapper season added $13 million to the region’s economy.
But based on harvest numbers, federal regulators have shortened the season since then. But many local fishermen will tell you they catch a lot of red snapper off Jacksonville’s coast and can’t keep them 363 days a year.
That’s why Congress spent $5 million to launch a fish count last year.
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That survey is set to have results by 2025.
Rutherford and his colleagues want regulators to wait to make any decisions on closing the season entirely until after that study is finished.
“What I’m asking NOAA to do is simply put the brakes on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council from closing sections of the ocean before these numbers come out. They have no data, no good data to make that decision on,” Rutherford said.
On Monday afternoon, we reached out to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, which regulates the fishing season. We haven’t heard back.