Three times as many red snapper in Gulf as was estimated
There are about three times as many red snapper as previously estimated in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a recently released study about the popular game and table fish over which recreational anglers and federal regulators have fought for years.
The $12 million Great Red Snapper Count estimated that the Gulf holds about 110 million adult red snapper — those at least 2 years old. A 2018 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine fisheries’ estimate was about 36 million.
The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council is likely to consider revising recreational quotas in April, but the quotas are unlikely to be tripled, he said.
The increased population estimate is almost entirely because federal scientists previously have relied on information from a fishery concentrated on natural and artificial reefs. But more than 60% of the red snapper were in areas that previously had not been checked, according to the study by 20 scientists from 14 universities and NOAA.
“Sand and mud makes up the vastness of the Gulf of Mexico, but it is dotted with remnant oyster reefs, salt domes, holes scoured out by currents, shipwrecks, fallen shipping containers and other bottom features that would attract red snapper,’’ lead researcher Greg Stunz of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi said Monday.
The report estimated that about 48 million adult red snapper swim off Florida, 29 million off Louisiana, 23 million off Texas and 10 million off Mississippi and Alabama.
An estimated 17 million live in such areas off Louisiana, 16 million off Texas and 4 million off Mississippi and Alabama.
“That means we have a reserve that is not directly targeted for fishing,’’ Stunz said.