While recreational fishing for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico has been popular for many years, it is restricted, mostly by fishing limits that are intended to ensure a sustainable population. With the 2013 season set to open on Saturday, June 1, there are renewed concerns about how many fish can be removed and still ensure the sustainability of the prized food fish, caught commercially and recreationally throughout the Gulf.
An iPhone-based application designed, tested, and analyzed by a team of scientists from the Harte Research Institute (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will provide the necessary information as the commercial snapper season approaches.
Dr. Greg Stunz, Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation Director and HRI Endowed Chair of Fisheries and Ocean Health, led the team of scientists who created the “iSnapper,” an iPhone-based application that functions as an electronic logbook for the Gulf of Mexico recreational for-hire fisheries (www.sportfishresearch.org). The simple-to-use portable application is an affordable, highly adaptable way for offshore charter boat captains to instantly upload catch data to HRI research databases.
“One of the most difficult aspects of fisheries management is the inability to collect high quality fisheries-dependent data in a timely manner that allows for the implementation of in-season adaptive management strategies,” said Dr. Stunz. “Despite fishing limits, tracking catches and determining sustainability has been restricted because traditional logbooks are time consuming, have an associated time lag, and have implementation issues.”
Until now, there has been no software to track the catches that meets the needs of the managers while addressing the concerns of fishermen seeking the highest quality and most timely data possible.
Traditionally, fisheries port officials and observers use logbooks and phone calls to estimate catches and make decisions pertaining to the entire fishery; although, sometimes they may not best represent what is actually occurring in the fishery.
“We piloted the ‘iSnapper’ app during the 2011 season and found it to be overwhelmingly successful,” said Dr. Stunz. “Red snapper represents a vital economic commodity for coastal communities along the Gulf of Mexico and ‘iSnapper’ gives fishery managers a portable application to aid in developing more effective management strategies for rapid recovery and optimization of this important fishery.”
For Scott Hickman, a 28-year permitted charter operator who owns Circle H Charters and Outfitters in Galveston, Texas, red snapper season is the busiest time of year. He has been using the “iSnapper” since 2011 and likes that it is simple to use and also gives fishery managers real-time landings and true accountability.