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New Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper and Hogfish Catch Limits

March 07, 2019

FB19-013 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Peter Hood, 727-824-5305, peter.hood@noaa.gov


NOAA Fisheries published a final rule to increase the commercial and recreational annual catch limits and recreational annual catch targets for Gulf of Mexico red snapper, as well as reduce the stock annual catch limit for west Florida hogfish, based on recent stock assessments. 


The final rule will be effective on April 4, 2019.  Note:  NOAA Fisheries will announce the 2019 federal for-hire component season soon in a separate Fishery Bulletin.   The private angling component seasons will be set by the respective Gulf of Mexico states.  Private anglers should contact their state marine resource agency for more information about the private angling season for red snapper in 2019.


  • The final rule implements two actions submitted by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council): the Red Snapper and West Florida Hogfish Annual Catch Limit Framework and the Recreational Red Snapper Annual Catch Target Buffer Framework.
  • The final rule increases the commercial and recreational red snapper catch levels and targets by more than 1 million pounds.  See the table below.
  • The final rule reduces the buffer between the catch limit and catch target for red snapper for the federal for-hire component from 20% to 9% in 2019 only.  This would temporarily increase the federal for-hire component catch target.
  • The final rule decreases the combined commercial and recreational west Florida hogfish stock catch limit for 2019, and then allows it to increase in 2020 and 2021 from the 2019 level.

The 2018 and new red snapper annual catch limits and annual catch targets in millions of pounds, whole weight, are listed below.  The federal for-hire annual catch target and total recreational annual catch target are greater in 2019 than in 2020 due to a temporary reduction in the buffer between the federal for-hire annual catch limit and annual catch target in 2019.


Red Snapper Sector

2018 annual catch limit

2019+ annual catch limit

2018 annual catch target

2019 and 2020+ annual catch target






Total Recreational




6.263 (2019)

5.919 (2020+)






Recreational Federal For-Hire




2.848 (2019)

2.504 (2020+)

The 2018 and new west Florida hogfish stock catch limits in pounds, whole weight, are listed below.







Stock catch limit







FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 84 FR 7828, published March 5, 2019




Why are the changes needed for red snapper?

  • An assessment of Gulf of Mexico red snapper was completed in 2018 and indicated that red snapper was not overfished or experiencing overfishing, but the stock is still in a rebuilding plan.
  • Based on the assessment, catch limits can be increased without jeopardizing the rebuilding plan.  The commercial, recreational, and recreational component catch limits can also be increased. 

How are the increases applied to the red snapper commercial and recreational sectors?

  • The current red snapper total catch limit is 15.10 million pounds whole weight. 
    • Of that, 51% is allocated to the commercial sector and 49% to the recreational sector. 
    • The recreational sector's catch limit is further divided into the private angling component (57.7%) and federal for-hire component (42.3%).  These components were implemented in 2015 and are currently set to expire at the end of 2022.

What are catch targets?

  • Catch targets are levels below the catch limits that account for management uncertainty.
  • For the recreational sector, catch targets were developed to reduce the likelihood that the recreational sector as a whole, or either component, exceed their catch limit.  The red snapper recreational fishing seasons are projected to harvest the catch targets.

Why is the buffer between the red snapper federal for-hire catch limit and catch target being reduced?

  • Initially, catch targets were set for the recreational sector and its components at 20% below the catch limit.
  • Because the federal for-hire component has never exceeded its catch target, the Gulf Council determined that the buffer between the catch limit and catch target could be reduced from 20% to 9%.
  • The commercial sector does not have a catch target because it is managed under an individual fishing quota program that provides harvest accountability. 


Why are the changes for the red snapper federal for-hire catch target only for 2019?

  • In 2018, all five Gulf of Mexico states were issued exempted fishing permits for a pilot study that allowed those states some management authority of the private angling component in state and federal waters through 2019.
  • The Gulf Council determined the federal for-hire component catch target could be increased as discussed above while the states manage private angling fishing.
  • Because the change in how the private angling component is being managed ends after the 2019 fishing year, the federal for-hire component buffer between the catch limit and catch target would return to 20% after 2019 to account for any needed adjustments to recreational red snapper harvest projections.


Why are the changes needed for the west Florida hogfish stock?

  • In 2018, an updated assessment for the west Florida hogfish stock indicated that the stock was not overfished (population too low) and was not experiencing overfishing (too many fish being caught
  • However, the assessment produced catch levels that were lower than projections from the previous assessment.
  • Although the new west Florida hogfish catch limits are lower, the Gulf Council did not recommend any further management action because landings in recent years have not exceeded the catch limit and the minimum size limit was recently increased from 12 to 14 inches fork length, which should reduce harvest.


Where can I find more information on the modifications to the red snapper and hACLs and ACTs, west Florida hogfish catch limits and catch targets?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

By Mail: Peter Hood

NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

Sustainable Fisheries Division

263 13th Avenue South

St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505

By FAX: (727) 824-5308

By Phone: (727) 824-5305



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Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

  • Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFRECFISH to 888777
  • Gulf of Mexico Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFCOMMFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLRECFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
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Other contacts:

Media: Kim Amendola, 727-551-5707

            Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750 

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on April 23, 2019

Catch Limits