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Commercial fishing for yellowtail snapper can continue

South Florida seafood harvesters and consumers will be able to relax and keep catching and eating fresh, locally caught yellowtail snapper for at least the immediate future.

NOAA Fisheries said Monday that the commercial harvest of the tasty seafood delicacy will not close Tuesday in South Atlantic federal waters as had been announced last week because commercial fishers have not fulfilled their annual quota early after all. There never has been a closure of yellowtail fishing before.

According to Roy Crabtree, southeast regional administrator for the federal fisheries agency, researchers at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center on Virginia Key reviewed dealer reports of yellowtail catches from around the region late last week and revised catch estimates downward, allowing the fishery to remain open for at least a couple more weeks.

Crabtree said he didn’t have exact numbers for how many pounds are left to be caught before the annual catch limit is reached. Meanwhile, he is meeting with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in Charleston, S.C., this week where council members are expected to review a new yellowtail stock assessment prepared by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The report says basically that yellowtail are in good shape and not in peril of being overfished, which may allow fisheries managers to raise the annual catch limit and keep the fishery open.

“I’m hopeful we’ll avoid a closure,” Crabtree said Monday afternoon. “At any rate, it would come later, not [Tuesday], and that’s good for folks.”

Commercial harvesters warned that yellowtail prices would skyrocket if the local fishery closed and fish had to be imported to meet demand.