UF researchers have been awarded a $10 million grant to study the red snapper population in the Gulf of Mexico.

Robert Ahrens, an associate professor in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences fisheries and aquatic sciences program, will join other researchers to assess the fish population. Will Patterson, a UF professor, also received funding.

The grant is funded through an order from Congress and comes from the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ahrens said.

The study aims to find a better method of determining the number of red snappers in the Gulf of Mexico, Ahrens said.

“The red snapper population in the Gulf of Mexico is an iconic species,” Ahrens said. “It represents some of the biggest challenges we face with respect to the management of fishery resources in the Gulf.”

Since traditional assessments are not effective in counting population size, fishers believe the harvest restrictions put on the fish are too high and are having a negative impact on their revenue, Ahrens said.

UF’s goal is to provide an alternative assessment of the red snapper population using methods like remote-operated vehicles, which count fish in a specific area. However, this method only works in clear water, so the group is looking into other methods as well.

The project will begin in 2018, Ahrens said. The team hopes to start the actual sampling of the population by late spring or early summer.