New Orleans, LA (AP) - Over the next two months, commercial fishing
boats in the Gulf of Mexico can take more than twice as much red
grouper out of federal waters than previously allowed and the bag
limit has doubled for recreational anglers.
Starting Nov. 2, the total red grouper quota for 2011 will rise from 5.68 million to 6.88 million pounds -- a 21 percent increase for the year -- with 5.23 million pounds of that allocated to commercial boats, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.
The recreational bag limit increases from two to four fish, with four remaining the total bag limit for all kinds of grouper.
Red groupers are bottom-dwelling fish that use their big mouths to smash and gulp the sea creatures they ambush, but also to clean
sediment away from holes in sea floor limestone, where they lurk.
They're hermaphrodites -- born female but turning into males as they
age. And they're good eating, with lean, firm white flesh.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council had asked NOAA
Fisheries to update its population assessment of the fish because
landings were lower than predicted last year, said Roy Crabtree,
southeast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service. The
reassessment earlier this year supported the change, he said.
"We are pleased to be able to raise the quotas, while maintaining a sustainable population of this popular species," he said.
The earlier federal quota for 2011 had been 4.32 million pounds.
Commercial boats already had caught 3.77 million, fishery biologist
Andy Strelcheck said Monday. That would have left about 550,000
available to catch under the old limit, compared to 1.46 million
under the new ones.
"The landings this year for the commercial fishery, it's on track to meet the lower quota," he said.
Recreational fishermen had caught about 447,000 pounds by the
end of August, Strelcheck said. He said the total recreational
limit is now 1.65 million for 2011, up from 1.36 million.
Total quotas will rise gradually from 5.37 million in 2012 to 5.72 in 2015.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)