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NOAA certifies Alabama’s snapper check program

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has been notified that its Snapper Check harvest reporting program used to monitor red snapper landings has been certified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.

“The Snapper Check program gives officials the ability to continue providing more timely, accurate data about the red snapper fishery,” U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s certification of this program is great news for our state’s fisherman.”

Certification by the federal government means that Snapper Check red snapper harvest estimates can be included in the federal stock assessment for management of the red snapper fishery.

Alabama’s Snapper Check reporting program became mandatory in May 2014 to provide a means by which near real-time estimates of the total number and weight of recreationally caught red snapper landed in Alabama could be determined to maintain harvests within allowable limits.

“Alabama’s Snapper Check program has been one of the most innovative programs in the country, so I am pleased to see NOAA recognize the success of the program,” U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said in a statement. “We need more state and local-led efforts when it comes to the management of our fisheries. With this certification, Snapper Check will now be eligible for certain federal funds to help further improve and grow the program. I again want to thank Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship and his entire team for their continued work on behalf of Alabama’s fishermen and coastal communities.”

Alabama fishermen as well as the ADCNR’s Marine Resources Division staff felt that the federal survey used was overestimating the red snapper harvest. The state felt that this, combined with the lengthy period of time needed to produce estimates, contributed to NOAA’s decisions to dramatically shortened the red snapper seasons.

Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon said that NOAA Fisheries’ certification is a step in the right direction for Alabama’s red snapper fishery. “We know that anglers are frustrated with short red snapper seasons. With their cooperation, we have been able to demonstrate that Snapper Check can provide more timely, accurate data on what is being harvested. Now that NOAA Fisheries has recognized that our program is scientifically valid, this is a huge step forward in managing the fishery.”

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The state requires that both charter and private boat operators landing red snapper in Alabama report each fish that they caught to the Snapper Check program. The program consists of two complementary components: an electronic reporting system and a dockside access point intercept survey. The electronically reported information by anglers is validated and corrected using information observed through the dockside intercept survey.

ADCNR and NOAA Fisheries staff will work together to address any issues associated with the capture-recapture survey design.

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said that assistance from Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne has been vital to allowing the Gulf states to be more involved in managing red snapper.

“All the Gulf States have been working together to come up with a viable solution to the red snapper management problem,” Blankenship said. “I am very appreciative of the assistance of our legislators in Washington, D.C..”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Recreational red snapper fishing is an important part of the South Alabama economy.

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