Oil spill result: Amberjack season still open


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Because the Gulf of Mexico oil spill kept anglers from getting offshore this year, they’re unlikely to hit the limit set to let greater amberjack recover from overfishing, officials have decided.

That means recreational anglers can keep fishing for them through the rest of the year, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said Wednesday. The 2011 season will start Jan. 1.

NOAA opened a special two-month recreational red snapper season Oct. 1, estimating that one-third of its 3.4 million pound quota had been caught.

“The oil spill really played a large role in keeping people from fishing and keeping us from getting to quota,” said Olivia Watkins, spokeswoman for LDWF.

Before the Macondo well blew wild April 20, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expected the Gulf-wide recreational quota of 1.2 million pounds of greater amberjack to be hit in late August.

The annual quota is nearly 1.4 million pounds, but this year’s was reduced because the 2009 catch went over. The commercial harvest, usually 500,000 pounds, was cut to 373,000.

NOAA closed the commercial harvest for greater amberjack on Oct. 28, estimating that quota would be met by then.

Not meeting quota this year won’t increase the 2011 recreational limit, Watkins said. “Quotas don’t roll into one another.”

A greater amberjack count is planned in 2011 to decide whether the species is still overfished.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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