Data will improve management and access to the Red Snapper fishery
Recreational fishermen can help secure the long-term sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico’s highly-prized Red Snapper fishery by using iSnapper, a new mobile application launching Monday, May 11. Created by the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) at the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies, iSnapper allows anglers to easily and securely report their catch, providing researchers with access to accurate data about how private fishermen are impacting the numbers of the coveted sportfish.
“We’ve created a simple app that takes only minutes to complete,” said Tara Topping, project leader for iSnapper and a research scientist with CSSC. “This is a simple way for anglers to actively participate in data collection — to say, ‘I want to be accountable and provide accurate data. This is what I caught today.’”
The mobile app is available in app stores now for iOS and Android, and will soon be available on Windows.
This year’s Red Snapper season begins June 1 and will last just 10 days. The data gathered by iSnapper will ultimately provide anglers with a longer season – something desperately needed in this fishery.
“This app is a private recreational angler’s chance to let their voice finally be heard in the Red Snapper management process,” said Dr. Greg Stunz, Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health at HRI and CSSC Director. “With iSnapper, fishermen can make an impact every time they go fishing by providing data.”
Red Snapper is one of the most highly-targeted and controversial species in the northern Gulf. The species has been considered overfished since the 1980s, and anglers have seen a dramatic reduction in both the fishing season and bag limits in recent decades. But while the stock has been classified as overfished, fishermen are seeing more Red Snapper than ever, creating mistrust in the data that fishery managers are providing.
The ability to collect timely and accurate catch data from recreational fishermen is a major challenge to fisheries management, which is designed to keep fish populations stable and prevent overfishing that can diminish a species population. Because of these problems, the Red Snapper quota for the recreational sector includes a 20 percent buffer in order to ensure that quota is not exceeded, which would violate federal laws. With more accurate data sourced directly from fishermen in near-real time, this buffer could be reduced or even eliminated, allowing a greater amount of fish to be harvested.
The CSSC previously launched iSnapper as a pilot project with charter for-hire captains in 2011 to see if app technology could provide a faster and more accurate means of reporting catch than traditional logbooks. That app was an overwhelming success, and this new version of iSnapper opens the door to a much wider audience of recreational fishermen who want to aid in better fisheries management.
The app was designed with fishermen in mind, and is simple and easy to use on the go. After downloading and registering with iSnapper, anglers simply open a new trip and answer a few questions each time they head out on the water. They can then put their phone away for the rest of their day. After returning to the dock, they reopen iSnapper, record the number of fish harvested and released and give a general fishing location. Moments later the data is sent securely to researchers to generate catch counts.
In addition to capturing fisheries data, iSnapper allows you to save fishing photos, access local weather reports, view fishing trip statistics and share updates on social media.
“Our goal was to streamline everything to encourage as many people as possible to participate,” Topping said. “It’s a very quick process, but the data they’re giving us is very important to the long-term sustainability of this fishery.”