Red snapper is a very popular dish in the United States. Along with its mild taste, it is loaded with protein and low in saturated fat and sodium. The popularity of red snapper has led to an unfortunate consequence. Red snapper populations in the wild are being depleted due to overfishing. To help replenish populations, the Gulf of Fishery Management Council and other supporters are calling for large scale red snapper farming in the United States.

Red Snapper Characteristics

Red snapper fish have distinctive red skin and eyes and are found off the coast of Mexico, in the Southeast Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico. Statistics released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirm populations of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic are at very low population levels. Overfishing and unintentional catches of juvenile red snapper are listed as the two primary causes.

Traditionally, red snapper have not been raised in fish farms. Instead, they are caught with a hook and line by commercial fishermen in the open water. A few promising experiments have been conducted in culture facilities to determine the usefulness of farming to rebuild red snapper populations.

New Fish Farms

The Gulf of Fishery Management Council promotes the opening of fish farms in the Gulf of Mexico as a means of ending reliance on imported seafood. In September of 2009, the NOAA cleared the way by not ruling on the proposal. The primary reason given for non-action is the lack of U.S. regulations concerning farming in federal waters. Supporters hope to raise millions of pounds of several species, including red snapper. Those who oppose the plan state concerns over the dangers posed to wild fish populations from disease and pollution caused by fish farms.

Supporters of creating fish farms in the Gulf state they will reduce America’s dependency on foreign imports by about 64 million pounds. Currently, 84 percent of seafood consumed in the United States is imported from foreign sources.

Existing Red Snapper Farms

Most of the existing red snapper farms are very small in scale. These farms are manned by local aquaculturists who have shown some success in raising red snapper and other fish species. The Mote Aquaculture Park located east of Sarasota believes it is paving the way for large scale red snapper farming by learning how to raise the fish successfully while learning from mistakes. To resolve pollution concerns, the park has implemented a closed water system that recycles the water used in the farm.