In FY 2016, Congress directed the National Sea Grant College Program to use $5 million of its budget for Gulf of Mexico red snapper fisheries data collections, surveys and assessments independent of NMFS efforts. Congress also directed NMFS to use $5 million of its FY 2016 appropriation for complementary research on red snapper, including applications of advanced sampling technologies. Sea Grant and NMFS are working together through a joint steering committee to design an effective research program and to ensure its results can be used to develop an independent estimate of Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock abundance.
In March 2015, more than 60 people from academia, state management agencies, commercial and recreational fishing sectors, NMFS and Sea Grant attended a workshop in New Orleans, Louisiana. Among them, they had more than 1,000 years of red snapper work experience. The purpose of the workshop was to identify and prioritize research and data collection efforts that would improve the accuracy of Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock assessments. Workshop recommendations focused on creating a Gulf of Mexico-wide tagging and advanced technology program that accounts for habitat type.
The recommendations formed the basis of an MASGC competitive funding process (Phase I) to develop experimental designs to be used in a large-scale study (Phase II) of red snapper abundance. Six Phase I experimental design projects received funding totaling $543,763.