CMR adopts red snapper monitoring plan

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The DMR is moving quickly to follow-up on the concerns of fishermen about this year's red snapper season.

Two weeks ago, more than 100 people attended the DMR's first "Red Snapper Summit" to share ideas about how best to manage that popular fishery. The Commission on Marine Resources took action at its monthly meeting on Tuesday to address the issue.

One issue at the heart of the red snapper debate is the lack of reliable information about the recreational catch. That's why the CMR is moving ahead with a monitoring program.

"We'd like to require an offshore landing permit. This would be a vessel permit, not an angler permit," said Matt Hill, with the DMR marine fisheries division, who presented a plan to the commission.

Fishermen would  be required to report details about their snapper trips.

"The number of anglers on the vessel. The number of red snapper harvested. The hours fished," Hill explained.

Commissioner Steve Bosarge represents commercial fishermen, who are already required to report such details and more.

"Until the recreational side and the for hire side gets to that point, everybody's guessing. We don't know if the data is right, wrong or what. So, the sooner the better," said Bosarge.

On the issue of overall species management, the DMR executive director is working with other states.

"We're promoting regional management, which would be a state based management for these species. And that as much as anything is the discussion and negotiation with other states and not the federal government," said Executive Director Jamie Miller.

Once the monitoring program is fully launched, fishermen will have an opportunity to use an app on their smart phone to report information about red snapper trips and catch.

"Every commissioner up here believes that the data is outdated. I think we pretty much know that. And in order to protect the whole fishery, both for commercial and recreational, we have to collect good data," said Commissioner Ernie Zimmerman.

The monitoring program will be voluntary this year, but mandatory beginning next year.

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