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Red Snapper Pilot program in Destin
DESTIN -- Federal Red Snapper Season doesn't start until June 1st but several boats out of Destin are bringing in the popular fish right now.
They have a special permit as part of a two-year pilot program run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The program is limited to twenty headboats, or party boats.
The group will be allowed to bag around 286,000 pounds of red snapper at any time during the year.
The captains are required to file reports electronically every time they go out.
Some fishermen in Destin say the system isn't fair.
Laura Hussey "Winter isn't the prime time for offshore fishing, look at all these boats in Destin Harbor sitting in their slips. But not the Sweet Jody. She's out in the Gulf. It's one of the party boats in a pilot program that allows it to catch red snapper"
Right now, snapper can only be caught during a short summer season.
A total allowable catch is shared by all boats.
The pilot program is an experiment in assigning individual quotas, based on what each boat caught in previous years.
Three boats on Destin Harbor are part of it.
Capt. John Carleton/Rocked Up Charters "You look at all of these boats up and down through here, these guys all need work also, they're looking to feed their families. But only those boats go out, because they have the special permits"
The pilot program was proposed by a group of captains unhappy with the current management system.
Regulators approved it; the group chose which boats would participate.
Capt. George Eller "I think there may be a lot of misconception about it, I personally don't have a problem with it at all. The head boats are not going to catch any more than they ever caught historically"
Captain George Eller runs the charter boat Checkmate 2.
He says even if some head boats can catch snapper, it's not a threat to his business.
Capt. Eller "The party boats and the charter boats have different clientele. That's just real simple"
Captain John Carleton of rocked up charters believes he could lose charters to a party boat catching snapper.
He says more boats should have been given the chance.
Capt. John "What we'd like to see is them to spread it out. Let everybody have a fair share of that two hundred thousand pounds of red snapper that's allowed to be caught. Get everybody working, not just three boats"
Laura Hussey "The booking agent for these boats tells me the captains are confident they can manage their catch, and still be bringing in red snapper in July and August."
We have more details on the pilot program available on our website under newslinks.
Southeast Fishery Bulletin
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