The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council on Wednesday (June 9) accepted a measure that would continue the current closure of the red snapper fishery off the Carolinas, and would end all bottom fishing in a region stretching from southern Georgia to northeast Florida, the council announced.

Amendment 17A of the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan was approved by a 9 to 4 vote, but must ultimately be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service before implementation. If given the green light, the amendment likely will be enacted later this year, the council reported.

Snapper possession currently is prohibited in the entire South Atlantic under an interim rule, which is in effect until Dec. 4.

In addition to continuing the closure of red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic, the new measure would end bottom fishing in waters 98 to 240 deep from just south of Brunswick, Ga., to south of Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Trolling for pelagics would continue to be allowed, but all bottom fishing would end in this area if the measure is ultimately approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
This area of total bottom-fishing closure was reduced from an earlier version of the amendment by the council after reviewing public comment and management alternatives.

The council in a news release said the area in which bottom fishing would be banned under the amendment encompasses federal waters where red snapper landings are highest, and is designed to help eliminate release mortality of red snapper occurring when other snapper and grouper are targeted.

A new stock assessment is being conducted for red snapper in the South Atlantic, and the results will be presented to the Council in December 2010. The council said it will consider adjusting management measures following the stock assessment – "if warranted."