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Study Finds Three Times As Many Red Snapper In Gulf Of Mexico Than Previously Thought

A Red Snapper
Courtesy of Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association
A Red Snapper with the yellow tags that helped scientists count them.

A three year independent study led by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christireports there are three times as many Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico than previously thought.

Fishery scientists expected to find about 36 million snapper in Gulf waters. So they counted ... and counted ... and counted. The final tally? 110 million.

Shane Bonnot is the advocacy director for the Texas Coastal Conservation Association. He says not only did the $12 million study discover Red Snapper around underwater pipelines, but it also found them in open water with no structures nearby.

“Across the vast mud flat that is the Gulf of Mexico you have a high abundance of Red Snapper that have been recently discovered," he explained, "so those are mystery fish that have always been out there. We just haven't been able to locate them through traditional fish survey techniques.”

Jerry Clayton | Texas Public Radio
The author with a Red Snapper caught in the Gulf of Mexico off Port Aransas.

Bonnot says this study was much different than fishery surveys done in the past by NOAA .

"It is not equivalent to a stock assessment that estimates biomass," he said. "This is a direct count of fish that were observed through various techniques that historically aren't done during a routine stock assessment.

"So this study was quite different in that it used tagging return rates," he added. "This study used direct visual count with remote operating vehicles. They observed some fish on structures that were previously unutilized for estimating abundance, such as pipelines and other uncharacterized bottoms."

Scientists once considered Red Snapper to be over-fished. But Bonnot said he believes the study confirmed that the population is a sustainable resource in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.