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Extended Florida red snapper season starts on Labor Day weekend

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(The Center Square) — An extension of Florida’s red snapper season begins Labor Day weekend and could be one of the longest since the state took over management of the tasty game fish.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Aug. 11 that the red snapper season would be extended by 17 days to 87 days, according to a statement released by the governor’s office.

Florida’s fall red snapper season runs every Friday through Sunday through the months of September, October and November, with open days on Labor Day (Sept. 4) and Thanksgiving (Nov. 23).

The Gulf States’ — Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — red snapper seasons began May 26 and runs until each state’s annual allocation has been met, which usually happens between July and late August. State waters in Texas are open throughout the year.

Alabama’s season will close on Friday and Louisiana’s will likely end on Labor Day weekend once the state catch quota is met. Mississippi’s season closed on July 7.

In the early 2000s, Florida’s red snapper season was 200 days long, from mid-April to the end of October. Limits were implemented after fish numbers rapidly declined from 1950 to the late 1980s.

The economic impact of Florida’s saltwater fishing industry is significant, and according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida is the fishing capital of the world, generating around $13.8 billion in revenue annually. The dockside value of red snapper in 2020 was over $12 million.

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn — a Republican representing Florida’s 2nd District in the Panhandle — recently stated in a newsletter that the fishing industry is essential. According to a report from the American Sportfishing Association, the 2nd District had a projected fishing economy of $278.9 million in 2021, with over 150,000 anglers.

“Fishing is critical to Florida’s economy, and red snapper fishing is essential to the Panhandle’s economy. I recently sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce requesting a new framework to appropriately increase the quota for Gulf of Mexico anglers and stimulate the economy. Accurate data means more fishing for the Panhandle,” Dunn said in his newsletter.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford of Florida’s 5th District on the Atlantic coast recently joined a research team from the University of Florida, Florida Sea Grant, and South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium to tour St. Augustine reefs to assess the red snapper fisheries.

“For too long, a lack of good data has limited South Atlantic red snapper seasons and restricted anglers from accessing the red snapper population off of the First Coast,” the Republican representative said in a news release.

Rutherford added that seeing cutting-edge science in tandem with the creation of independent assessments is encouraging.

“I am confident that the data collected by the research team will help us better assess the state of red snapper fisheries and care for this ecosystem without jeopardizing our state’s fishing industry,” Rutherford said.

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