The Great Red Snapper Count Report is Here
Three years, 80 scientists, days of footage, and the results are in! The Great Red Snapper Count estimates that there are more than 118 million Red Snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This finding is the culmination of an unprecedented new population assessment led by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Previous estimates by federal fisheries officials put the population at about 36 million red snapper — meaning this new absolute abundance estimate may potentially change the way the Gulf of Mexico fishery is managed by federal and state officials. The greater estimate is mostly attributed to a major new discovery of a “cryptic biomass” of fish caught over the uncharacterized open bottom habitat in the Gulf. To learn more about the project and the results, click on the file links below.
Note: Subsequent to our final report, we have received requests to re-run our analyses under a variety of different scenarios than what was specified in the original Request for Proposals. Where possible and practical, we have done the re-analyses. The associated documents contain the details and results of these re-runs.
1. SEFSC re-analyses of FL uncharacterized bottom using the random forest model (September 2021)
Outreach and Public Education Materials
(images courtesy of: Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, Brian Jones, David Hay Jones)
What is the problem with Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico?
Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is perhaps the most economically valuable and culturally relevant fishery in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The trends in fishing activity over the past 150 years have led to a depleted stock, which is now under a rebuilding plan. As the stock continues to show signs of recovery, fishermen are seeing more (and larger) red snapper in the population; however, the spawning potential of the population (the number of eggs produced by reproductively active females) is still lower than the rebuilding target. The conundrum caused by a population that is rapidly rebuilding, but has not yet met its rebuilding target (the biomass needed for long-term sustainable yield), has led to discontent among some user groups. Hearing the frustration from their constituents, lawmakers took action.
What is The Great Red Snapper Count?
In 2016, Congress made funding available to independently estimate the population size of U.S. Gulf of Mexico red snapper. A total of $10 million was awarded by Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant for a two-year project, which will run from 2017 – 2019. The project, officially titled 'Estimating the absolute abundance of red snapper in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico,' but better known as the Great Red Snapper Count, aimed to estimate the population size of red snapper in U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This evaluation was conducted separately from the assessment process employed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council through the SEDAR process. The project was led by a well-integrated, multidisciplinary team of 21 investigators, which was comprised of leading fisheries experts from the Gulf region and beyond. A suite of methods, including habitat classification, direct visual counts, depletion surveys, and a high-reward tagging study, was used across the entire U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
The Future of Gulf Red Snapper
The Great Red Snapper Count provides an independent estimate (separate from the stock assessment-derived estimate) of red snapper abundance in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Results from this study will be compared with stock assessment results to examine what accounts for any differences observed. This project represents a unique opportunity to bolster the stock assessment-derived estimate of red snapper abundance in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, with the goal of ensuring the most robust management possible for this iconic fishery species.
Tagged Fish FAQ:
What should I do if I catch a tagged fish?
- Clip the tag off and keep it somewhere safe
- Record the date and coordinates of when and where the fish was caught
- Record the fish's length and weight
What is the process for reporting my tagged fish?
- Call the phone number printed on the tag **Tagging hotline hours are Mon-Fri 9am-5pm CDT
- You will be asked to complete a 5-minute phone survey about your trip and the fish you caught
- You will also be asked to mail in the tag
What if my call goes to voicemail?
- Your call may go to voicemail if there is a high call volume or if it is outside of 9am-5pm CDT
- Please leave a voicemail with your name and phone number
- Your call will be returned within three business days