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Ocean Conservancy Urges Caution on Results of Great Red Snapper Count

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The following statement was issued by Meredith Moore, director of the Fish Conservation Program, after the release of independent expert analysis reviewing the Great Red Snapper Count:

“Ocean Conservancy strongly recommends that managers and scientists delay use of the results of the Great Red Snapper Count in management advice until the study can be incorporated into an integrated stock assessment for red snapper.

“The Great Red Snapper Count is an unprecedented effort and will be an important contribution to our understanding of red snapper, but it is essential that it be given the full treatment of scientific rigor.

“Invited reviewers from the Center for Independent Experts, who performed the first external peer review of the Great Red Snapper Count, identified issues around methodology, calibration, sample sizes and uncertainty that warrant further review, particularly given the magnitude of changes to red snapper management being considered.

“Given the ecological and economic importance of red snapper to the region, the Great Red Snapper Count should be integrated into the established peer review and stock assessment program in the Gulf – the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review process.”

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Meredith Moore is available for interviews upon request.

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • The Great Red Snapper Count is a $12 mil study to estimate the total abundance of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. The preliminary findings were announced last week, suggesting that this one-time snapshot of abundance found up to 110 million red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these fish are too young to catch or are located in areas that are not able to be targeted by fishermen.
  • The Center of independent Experts (CIE) was established in 1998 to provide external, independent and expert reviews of the agency’s science used for policy decisions and is administered through NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology. Three CIE reviewers analyzed the Great Red Snapper Count; two urged significant caution. Notable concerns included:
    • “The estimation procedures as described in the report are unfortunately not appropriate.”
    • “… the estimate of stock-wide abundance cannot be used directly for stock assessment because regional estimates do not appear to be comparable or additive. The estimated variance of the population estimate may be substantially underestimated and is not reliable for statistical weighting in an integrated stock assessment.”
  • Red snapper experienced overfishing in 2019 for the first time in decades due to excessive fishing from the private recreational angling sector that is a direct result of a failure to address design flaws in the current management system. Managers must calibrate state and federal data to bring the management system into compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

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