Red snapper is back, according to Gulf of Mexico fishermen.

“It’s been another productive year for sure,” said Buddy Guindon, a fisherman and owner of Katie’s Seafood in Galveston, Texas.

Although technically still in a “rebuilding” status, the gulf red snapper population has come a long way since stock lows in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“We’re seeing more and more snapper in the eastern gulf, more than in the past 15 years,” said Jason DeLaCruz, a fisherman and owner of Wild Seafood Co. in Madeira Beach, Fla. “Our catches are doing a flip. They used to be so grouper-heavy and now they’re snapper-heavy,” he said.

For at least the past several years, gulf vessels on both coasts have brought to dock nearly 100 percent of quota.

According to numbers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the average ex-vessel price for red snapper in 2018 in the state was $3.94.

But both Guindon on the west Gulf Coast and DeLaCruz on the east say red snapper in their area has fetched $5 or more a pound for several years.

“I think we got up to an ex-vessel price of about $5 a pound about four or five years ago, and since then it has crept up to anywhere from $5.20 to $6,” said Guindon.

So far in 2018, Florida’s commercial sector has brought in 2.11 million pounds of red snapper for an estimated value of $8.33 million.

Commercial red snapper landings in the entire gulf for 2017 — the latest for which numbers are available — amounted to 6.98 million pounds, or more than 99 percent of the 7.01 million-pound quota, according to preliminary data from NOAA.

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Dayna Harpster is a Florida-based freelance writer.

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