Snapper and shrimp booming in the Gulf
Report on shrimp trawl effort indicates best of both worlds

A report to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council on shrimp trawl effort at the Council’s meeting in October indicates that a variety of factors are combining to create the best of all worlds for anglers and the Gulf. The analysis indicates that while shrimping effort is down 78 percent from the three-year average before Hurricane Katrina, the spawning stock for brown and white shrimp is the highest ever and the shrimp industry as a whole had a very profitable year last year.

“At the same time, red snapper stocks are rebounding nicely, with many anglers saying they have never seen as many snapper as they are seeing today,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “These are not unrelated events. Before the ruling, a significant percentage of ever year class of red snapper died in shrimp trawls when they were just a few inches long. We have fought NOAA Fisheries and the shrimp industry to get to this point for more than two decades, but when the resource is healthy, everyone benefits.”

In 2007, Coastal Conservation Association won a landmark decision when a federal district court judge ruled that NOAA Fisheries had violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by its continuing failure to take timely and appropriate steps to rebuild red snapper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico or to regulate the harm to red snapper caused by shrimp fishing. The judge’s ruling overturned a 2005 rebuilding plan for red snapper because it failed to address and regulate the shrimp fishing industry.  While the 2005 hurricane season, a slowing economy, and high fuel prices reduced shrimping effort markedly, regulations enacted as a result of the CCA lawsuit have held the line to keep wasteful bycatch under control.

“The result of that lawsuit was the most significant bycatch reduction measures ever imposed on the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fleet, which set the foundation for the steady recovery of Gulf red snapper stocks that we are seeing today,” said Russell Nelson, CCA’s Gulf Fisheries consultant. “The shrimp industry is finally causing less damage, and yet shrimpers are catching big, valuable shrimp and anglers are seeing huge numbers of red snapper. It’s been a hard fight to get here and now we have to make sure we stay on the path so everyone continues to reap the benefits.”