Another early closure of the commercial yellowtail snapper season has local fishermen again raising the issue of moving some or all of the unused recreational quota to the commercial side. Federal fishery managers will close the commercial yellowtail snapper season two months early this year because the commercial sector is projected to reach its 1.5 million pound quota before season ends July 31.
The commercial harvest of yellowtail snapper in federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean closed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, June 5. The season will reopen Aug. 1. The season runs from Aug. 1 to July 31. During the commercial closure, all sale or purchase of yellowtail snapper is prohibited, and harvest or possession of yellowtail snapper in or from federal waters is limited to the recreational bag and possession limits while the recreational fishery is open. Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Bill Kelly said the closure is another reason the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management councils should allocate the unused recreational quota to the commercial sector.
The recreational side has not harvested 500,000 to 700,000 pounds of yellowtail in South Atlantic waters for the past six of seven years and 500,000 pounds in Gulf waters, Kelly said. Kelly called the yellowtail stock “under-utilized” and “prolific” when it comes to its ability to reproduce. Kelly also questioned the data that led to the closure and wants a recount, he said. “These closures are totally unwarranted,” Kelly said. “This is causing an extreme hardship on Florida Keys fishermen, who have had a dismal spiny lobster and stone crab season and engage in the yellowtail fishery,” Kelly said.
Kelly and others will address the South Atlantic Council about the issue when it meets June 11 through 15 in Fort Lauderdale and the Gulf Council when it meets June 18 through 22 in Key West. “I expect they will get an earful,” Kelly said.