Assessment of Charter Boat and Head Boat Angler Perception of Fishery Regulations and Stock Health in the Recreational Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) Fishery in the Upper Texas Coast
Norman, Sarah A.
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In 1988, the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico was declared severely overfished. Since then, the daily bag limit has been reduced from 7 to 2, the minimum size limit has increased from 13 to 16 inches, and the year-round recreational season has been reduced to one lasting 53 days. Despite NOAA's recommendations that the Gulf States match these regulations, Texas has enforced a 4 bag limit and no seasonal restrictions. In 2009 alone, the total recreational catch exceeded the allocated quota by 1.7 million pounds. The lack of consistency between state and federal regulations and the drastic changes in management schemes have affected anglers' confidence in management, and limited the ability of the fishery to successfully adapt. This study provides an innovative assessment that measures fishers' knowledge and determines their support for current fishery regulations and for the scientific rationale behind the regulatory system. Over 150 interviews of red snapper anglers at charter and head boat docks were conducted along the Texas coast. The majority of respondents were 20-50 year old (74.5%), male (89.3%), four-year college graduates (34.9%), who resided near the coast (65.3%), and were targeting red snapper (92.5%). Results showed that 72.5 percent of respondents agree with the science behind red snapper management, 63.4 percent believe that the stock has improved since 2008, 89.5 percent agree that a bag limit in general is an appropriate management tool, and 78.2 percent agree with the Texas state management of red snapper. However, 51.7 percent of respondents disagree with the federal management of red snapper, and 90.1 percent of all respondents did not know that red snapper live to be 41-60 years old. The lack of support for the federal management may be due to the lack of knowledge of red snapper life span. Applications of this research will be imperative for managers - who already address biological, ecological, and economic aspects of a fishery - to expand their multi-disciplinary approach to include social analysis for the successful evolution of recreational fisheries management. Future research should explore improved management approaches that involve greater communication between the stakeholders and managers.