About 20 miles off shore is where you can find one of the Gulf’s most popular fish – the red snapper.
“When the season’s open everybody goes out there’s so many big snappers that they catch the quota in no time,” said Dr. Bob Shipp, a professor of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama.
Dr. Ship tells us, his past work suggests that Alabama’s coast is full of red snapper. He thinks regulations should be loosened up.
“We’re trying assess how many snappers exist on all the artificial reefs that we have off of Alabama,” said Crystal Hightower, a research assistant.
Shipp picked six reefs to study. Once researchers found a spot, they used a special remote-controlled vehicle that records red snapper on the sea floor.
“So the ROV allows us to down and actually see the entire of what’s living on an artificial reef,” said Crystal Hightower, a research assistant.
There’s a special laser on the vehicle that researchers use to estimate size, but their work also requires taking samples. So at each site, 20 fish are caught. The samples are then tagged, measured, and will undergo later testing.
“I caught a couple of really large fish which they call off the sour rig which were pretty hard to pull in,” said Eliska Morgan, State Coastal Conservation Coordinator, who came out to volunteer.
“Drop down some squid and pretty much brought up a snapper every time,” said Jared Irby, another volunteer.
“It was extremely easy catching snapper today by the time that you hit the bottom and started reeling back up you had multiple fish on each line,” said Patrick Bryne with Congressman Bradley Bryne’s office who also came out to help.
This is just one of half a dozen trips planned to research the red snapper population.
“We made six stops today on six different reefs and every one of them was loaded with fish mostly snapper, a few other species as well, but it’s a really healthy population.”
Shipp tells us the work may be used to push federal regulators to extend red snapper season for several weeks if not months, but for regulations continue to be debated by regulators, and lawmakers.