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Red Snapper Imperiled

Earthjustice files suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service to compel the agency to implement a regulation requiring bycatch reduction devices on shrimp nets in the Gulf of Mexico.
March 18, 1998
Tallahassee, FL —

Representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund today filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to compel the agency to implement a regulation requiring bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) on shrimp nets in the Gulf of Mexico.

In July 1997, NMFS approved the amendment requiring BRDs, which function like one way valves allowing fish to escape the nets. NMFS's own documents affirm that finfish bycatch outweighs shrimp in trawler nets by a ratio of at least 4.2 to 1. Of particular concern is the bycatch of juvenile red snapper, an important commercial and recreational species whose population is already overfished.

Shrimp trawlers kill approximately 80% of the juvenile snapper in a given year. Even if commercial harvest of red snapper stopped entirely, bycatch is so extreme that it would still prevent the population from recovering.

The bycatch amendment aims to reduce bycatch of red snapper by 44%, in order to effect its recovery in the Gulf. At a low cost to the shrimp industry, BRD's would save the imperiled red snapper fishery.

NMFS has dragged its feet on implementation of the rule, overstepping by over 5 1/2 months the October deadline for action.

"With 100 million pounds of juvenile fish being killed in shrimp nets every year, the Federal Government's neglect of this crucial issue is inexcusable," said David Guest, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

Contacts

David Guest, Jamie Brigman

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund

(850) 681-0031

Manley Fuller

Florida Wildlife Federation

(850) 656-7113

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.