From: Greg Allen, NPR
Published January 5, 2010 06:52 AM

Red Snapper Fishing Ban Starts

In Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, a new federal rule has fishermen angry. A ban on fishing for red snapper—one of the most popular saltwater fish — starts Jan. 4.

Federal agencies and environmental groups say that in the south Atlantic, red snapper numbers are dwindling. So along with the ban, officials also propose temporarily closing a huge area to virtually all fishing.

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To people who don't fish or don't live in the Southeast, it might seem like a lot of fuss over one species. But in fishing communities like St. Augustine, Fla., the red snapper is more than just a fish.

It's the reason thousands of anglers visit each year. The new rules are a blow to coastal communities around the Southeast, like St. Augustine, that depend on recreational fishing.

Robert Johnson is a charter boat captain who has fished for red snapper off the eastern coast of Florida for nearly 30 years. When his charter business slows down, he also fishes for them commercially.

According to Johnson, the average snapper measures around 2 feet long and weighs between 6 and 7 pounds. But he says he has caught fish that weigh up to 30 pounds.

Red snapper can live to 50 years old and grow to 20 pounds or more. But fish that old — and big — are very rare — a clear indication, scientists say, of how much they've been overfished.

Article continues: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122007340&ft=1&f=1007

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