‘Fish on Fridays’: Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper, a tasty sustainability success story

Gulf Wild Red Snapper

Gulf Wild tagged Red Snapper. GulfWild allows the consumer to trace their fish back to the boat and captain who caught it

Welcome to a blog series on sustainable, locally sourced seafood for Lent! This week, we are featuring Gulf of Mexico red snapper which is managed under the Gulf of Mexico Commercial Red Snapper IFQ program. We are also presenting a delicious recipe for snapper tacos from Chef Chris, the head chef at Yaga’s in Galveston.

Meet a Fisherman: Bubba Cochrane

Bubba Cochrane is a commercial fisherman and business owner in Galveston, TX. He began his career as a deck hand and saved enough to purchase a permit and boat of his own. His business is doing well now, but he remembers when red snapper were on the brink of collapse. At that time, he was restricted to fishing in just the first 10-15 days of each month, in a derby-style competition in which everyone got on the water at the same time and tried to catch as many fish as possible.

He told National Geographic, “A derby is really stressful – you’re worried about the weather or if you get sick or even hurt,” he said. “And it means you miss a lot of birthdays and holidays with your family, because when fishing is open you’d better be on the water.”

Cochrane was skeptical of the IFQ program until he went to a workshop and learned he could buy or lease additional quota if he didn’t have enough. Now, his business is doing well and he hopes that one day, his son will follow in his footsteps. “Catch shares taught me about stewardship. I know what sustainability means and I believe in it,” said Cochrane. “There’s a future for the fishery.”


The Gulf of Mexico Commercial Red Snapper IFQ program:

Gulf snapper are so popular that overfishing once threatened to devastate this species, reducing it to just 4% of its original population. Attempts to control the problem by shortening the fishing season year after year failed. Then in 2007, fishermen voted to introduce an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ), a type of catch share, which put this species on the road to recovery. Since 2008, the fishing season has been extended to year-round, fishing quotas have been steadily rising and revenues have gone up, allowing fishermen to once more make a good living without harming the stock.

Some have even found creative ways to use the fishery’s new sustainability to market their catch. Gulf Wild, a registered program of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance, allows consumers to track the fish they buy back to its supplier, so they can see who caught their snapper, what part of the Gulf it came from, the name of the ship’s captain, and even the port where it was landed. The program assures consumers that they are eating truly sustainable seafood. Check out mygulfwild.com for more information on how the program works and where to buy Gulf Wild fish.


Red Snapper:

Red snapper, with its firm texture and sweet, nutty flavor, is one of the most popular white fish on the market and can be found all over the world, though most are harvested in the Gulf of Mexico or Indonesia. We are advocating that you purchase the locally caught Gulf snapper, however, and support local fishermen like Bubba!

Care to cook some snapper? Try this recipe for fresh snapper tacos.


Chef Chris’ snapper tacos: 


1/2 Gal sour cream
3 green onions, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 C capers
1 C white wine
1 lime, juiced
2 T mayonnaise
1 T black pepper
1 T salt
1 T blackening seasoning

Sauce: Combine above ingredients in a bowl & set aside.

2 8oz red snapper fillets, cut into 3oz strips
1 T salt
1 T pepper
1 T chili powder
1 T garlic powder

Combine seasonings and coat snapper with the mixture. Cover bottom of sauté pan with olive oil & cook fish until white and flaky.

Assemble tacos with corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, chopped cilantro, sautéed snapper, and prepared sauce. Layer two or three corn tortillas for stability.

This entry was posted in Gulf of Mexico, Seafood and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.