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Red snapper rules finalized

POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.
NEW ORLEANS - Red snapper quotas for recreational and commercial fishermen will drop by almost 50 percent from quotas in force early last year, under new regulations that take effect Feb. 28.
Regulators first announced the new limits last June. Final federal approval came Tuesday.
In addition to smaller quotas for snapper fishermen, the new rules mean shrimpers will face season closings in areas where snapper congregate, to cut down on accidental catch of young fish. And anglers will need new gear on boats to help small snapper survive after being thrown back in the water.
The new rules set a total red snapper fishing quota of 5 million pounds, down from 9.12 million pounds in previous years.
Licensed commercial fishermen will get an allotted share of the total catch based on how much red snapper they have historically brought to shore. For recreational anglers, the new limits will translate into two fish per person for every trip, down from four fish early last year, and a fishing season shortened by more than a month.
After the species was declared overfished in 1997, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council set limits on the number and size of red snapper that sport and commercial fishermen could take. But conservationists said the limits were far too low.
A federal judge agreed and told regulators to approve a new plan.

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