OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. — A team of 21 scientists will conduct a study to estimate the number of red snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The panel of researchers from universities and state and federal agencies was convened by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and awarded $9.5 million in federal funds, The Sun Herald reported . The project will receive another $2.5 million from the universities.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross highlighted the important of access to and long-term sustainability of red snapped to Gulf communities.

“American communities across the Gulf of Mexico depend on their access to, as well as the longterm sustainability of, red snapper,” Ross said in a statement announcing the formation of the team. “I look forward to the insights this project will provide as we study and manage this valuable resource.”

Area fishermen have long criticized federal estimates of red snapper, saying they result in unnecessarily short seasons.

Project leader Greg Stunz of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, says the scientists hope to work with local fishermen.

“We’ve assembled some of the best red snapper scientists around for this study,” Stunz said. “The team members assembled through this process are ready to address this challenging research question. There are lots of constituents who want an independent abundance estimate that will be anxiously awaiting our findings.”

Members of the research team also include Sean P. Powers of the University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab; James Cowan of Louisiana State University; Matthew Catalano of Auburn University; Marcus Drymon of Mississippi State University; Brett Falterman of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Robert Leaf of the University of Southern Mississippi; and Eric Saillant of the University of Southern Mississippi, among others.

Several Floridians are also part of the team, including Will Patterson, Robert Ahrens and Vincent Lecours of the University of Florida; Kevin Boswell, Florida International University; and Steven Murawski of the University of South Florida.

Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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