Good news for fishermen: Yellowtail fishery stays open

Commercial fishermen can keep catching yellowtail snapper: Federal fishery managers called off Tuesday’s planned commercial closure on the popular food fish, saying annual catch limits of 1.14 million pounds in the South Atlantic region have not been reached.

The closure would not have stopped recreational fishing for yellowtail, or commercial fishing in state waters.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials previously announced that the yellowtail commercial fishery would halt Tuesday.

About 275 commercial boats in the Florida Keys, including more than 100 full-time yellowtail boats, would have been affected. The closure was called off Monday.

“Updated landings data indicate the commercial annual catch limit for yellowtail snapper has not been reached,” a notice from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council says. “Therefore, the previously scheduled commercial closure has been canceled.”

Commercial fishermen protested that the 1.14-million-pound catch limit for the abundant yellowtail population is far too low.

A new stock assessment indicates that catching more than the current annual limit for yellowtail would not threaten the species’ population, but that report has not yet been approved by federal scientists.

“The results of the peer review should support an increase in the annual catch limit [for yellowtail snapper] and eliminate the need for a closure in 2012 and prevent any closures in the upcoming 2013 season,” said Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association.

A revised catch limit could be adopted before November, Kelly said.

Under federal fishery laws, annual catch limits for all food fish were put in place by the end of 2011. Biologists used available information to set the initial catch limit.

A closure under catch-limit rules would have been the first ever on yellowtail snapper. Prices paid for yellowtail rise in the fall and winter when demand from visitors increases.

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