This year, red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic was only open for two weekends. For most of the year, anglers had to catch something else. However, even when red snapper season is closed, anglers are catching and releasing thousands of them in their pursuit of other species.
Nearly 350 million fish are caught each year by recreational anglers throughout the South Atlantic, with about 60 percent of those released. Anglers must make sure these released fish survive. Improving survival will ultimately lead to healthier stocks and a more robust recreational fishery.
The FishSmart South Atlantic Red Snapper Conservation Project, a collaboration between anglers, companies (including SeaQualizer, LLC), and fisheries management agencies, encourages Florida’s nearly 2.5 million saltwater anglers to use a science-based, proactive approach to protect the future of fishing. This innovative project is an evolution in sportfishing and enhancing anglers’ long-established role as conservationists.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 people will be participating in the FishSmart project in the South Atlantic this year. They will estimate their catches and the number of fish they release, and their techniques and experiences using best practices and descending devices.
In a similar effort focused on the Gulf of Mexico, anglers potentially saved up to 9,000 red snapper over eight months based on known improvements in survival when descending devices are used.
Anglers must take an active role. To learn more about best practices for releasing fish, or to enroll in the FishSmart South Atlantic project, visit www.fishsmart.org and click on the link for the South Atlantic effort.