Sometimes it seems like everything in the South Atlantic fisheries comes down to red snapper, and this theme carried as the Snapper-Grouper Advisory Committee of the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) met this week to talk black bar.
The Council is responsible for managing fisheries in federal waters from North Carolina to the Florida Keys.
The black bass fishing expert panel’s performance report update showed there wasn’t much to report from northeast Florida – or most of the South Atlantic – where fish was once available. The reunion took place in North Charleston, South Carolina, but was also streamed online.
Fishermen blame two major factors for the disappearance of the favorite restaurant from local waters: climate change and the uncontrolled proliferation of red snappers.
“If there has ever been a fishery that has been affected by climate change, for me in my area there has not been one more than this,” said Jack Cox Jr.a commercial fisherman from North Carolina.
“I’ve been involved in fishing for a long time, and it seems we don’t have the cold waters that required us to keep fish for as long as we used to. I know, working at a fish store that was trawling a lot of fish in the mid-Atlantic, they have a very strong stock assessment about eight or 10 years ago and I think a lot of our fish have moved further north.
Jimmy Hulla commercial fisherman from Ponce Inlet and chairman of the committee, traditionally fished for black bass.
“I’m a black bass trap fisherman, or at least I was,” Hull said. “I had fished recently, this winter, and participated in the ropeless gear experiment with it. We caught a few fish, but it’s been like a few years, and we have cameras there, and what you see is a red snapper. Everywhere.
“The bigger bass will swim with them, but that, with climate change – the ocean is changing. In my area it’s not worth going. I know in the North Carolinas they still catch fish, but in my area, no.
Pleasure boats for rent in northeast Florida aren’t playing with black bass either, he later added, because the fish just aren’t there.
Before the red snapper fishery closed, there was an abundance of black bass in the South Atlantic, SC recreational fisherman Harry Morals said in a letter to the rest of the panel.
“Catching more than 20 per angler was common, with sizes ranging from 6 inches to 17 inches,” Morales wrote. He sent the letter because he couldn’t attend the meetings.
“There is a direct correlation between black bass catches and red snapper closure, with each year decreasing. In the past, when targeting red snapper with live bait, you had to get past the black bass first. Now that’s no longer a problem, because there are so few black bass caught. Today, black bass fished are barely legal, with some being so small you can put them in an aquarium.
Like any modern wildlife management problem, habitat loss is also a suspected factor.
“We used to crab in the fall of the year and catch a lot of juvenile bass and gagged groupers and stuff, and we lost half of our salt marshes and estuaries due to the construction of new houses, bulkheads and marinas. “, Cox said. “I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, but I feel like it’s impacting some of these species.