Thursday, January 23, 2020

January Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 27-30, 2020. You’re more than welcome to join us in person or via webinar.

Public comment will be held on Wednesday, January 29th, from 1:45 – 5:30 PM. If you can’t join us to comment, visit our “Amendments Under Development” webpage to learn more about what we’re working on and submit comments.

The Agenda and Meeting Materials will help you prepare for the meeting. The following is a brief summary of some of the issues that will be discussed:

Photo: Capt. Jennings
Greater Amberjack
The Council is trying to figure out the best way to manage recreational greater amberjack. In 2018, the Council modified the recreational amberjack fishing year so that the quota renews on August 1st. That was supposed to allow for fishing seasons August – October and then May in the following calendar year, if there was any quota left. Unfortunately, the entire quota was harvested in the fall season that year so, we didn’t get a May season in 2019. (Note: We still don’t know if we’ll have a May season this year and expect NOAA fisheries to give us that news as soon as they can process the harvest data from the end of last year).

The Council is still looking for ways to allow recreational harvest in both fall and spring since different anglers from different parts of the Gulf prefer to fish amberjack at different times. We will discuss a document that considers managing recreational greater amberjack with different zones and bag limits. This Recreational Greater Amberjack Decision Tool will allow you to explore some of the different management alternatives that are currently being considered.

Photo: Capt. Hubbard
Red Grouper
A recent red grouper stock assessment (SEDAR 61) determined that the red grouper stock is smaller than it has ever been. Additionally, the assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program’s landings and effort estimates, which more than doubled the estimates of recreational harvest.

The Council will begin working on Reef Fish Amendment 53 which considers modifying commercial and recreational sector allocations and catch limits based on the results of the latest assessment.

Fishing Access in Eastern Gulf Marine Protected Areas
The Council’s Reef Fish Advisory Panel expressed concern that illegal recreational bottom fishing is occurring in Steamboat Lumps and Madison Swanson Marine Protected Areas. Regulations in those areas were created to protect grouper spawning aggregations. Currently, no bottom fishing is allowed in the areas, but trolling is permitted during part of the year. It is difficult to enforce the no-bottom-fishing regulation when trolling is allowed. So, in an effort to ensure grouper spawning aggregations are protected as intended, the Council will take its first look at a framework action that is considers prohibiting all fishing in the Steamboat Lumps and Madison Swanson Protected Areas.

Status Determination Criteria
The Council must define a maximum sustainable yield, a maximum fishing mortality threshold, a minimum stock size threshold, and an optimum yield for all managed stocks. These reference points are the basis for determining the health of each stock and are required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and National Standard 1 guidelines. The Council will work on a public hearing draft of Reef Fish Amendment 48/Red Drum Amendment 5, which aims to define, and in some cases modify, existing status determination criteria for reef fish and red drum.

Red Snapper Allocation
The Council will continue work on Reef Fish Amendment 52 which considers reallocating the red snapper annual catch limit between recreational and commercial sectors. The Council previously passed Amendment 28, which reallocated red snapper by shifting 2.5% of the commercial sector’s allocation to the recreational sector. However, a lawsuit resulted in the district court decision which vacated Amendment 28 and restored the previous sector allocations of 49% recreational and 51% commercial.

Commercial Individual Fishing Quota Programs
At its last meeting, the Council decided to split Amendment 36B into two separate documents. At this meeting, it will review a new version of 36B which considers requiring individual fishing quota shareholder accounts to be associated with a commercial reef fish permit. The Council will also take its first look at Amendment 36C which considers a mechanism for distributing unused shares reclaimed by NOAA Fisheries, quota banks, and modifying the accuracy of estimated weights in advance landings notifications.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Meet the Council: Mr. Troy Williamson

Meet the Council: Mr. Troy Williamson, Recreational Angler and Advocate from Texas

Getting ready for a day on the Gulf
The Gulf Council is comprised of fishermen and other experts in the fishery from states across the Gulf of Mexico. Drawing upon the expertise of these local fishermen ensures that federal fishing regulations are made with direct understanding of and passion for our fishery. The Council is pleased to welcome aboard its newest member, Mr. Troy Williamson. 

Troy Williamson developed a deep appreciation for fishing at a young age. His love of the sport is rooted in a memory of his grandma. She would take him down to the creek that ran along the edge of the Williamson cotton farm and sit, reading with an umbrella to shading her from the Texas sun, while he fished. He says that he can’t remember catching any fish at all; it was simply an experience he shared with her.

Troy’s passion for the outdoors grew along with him. He initially wanted to be a fisheries biologist, and worked for a summer at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Marine Lab in Rockport. Then, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in biology and chemistry. Eventually, Troy earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence degree.

Troy fishing for his supper
While his path led him away from the natural sciences and into a career as a civil trial lawyer, Troy always remained interested in fisheries. He found an outlet for his passion in advocation with the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). His involvement with CCA opened new doors and he is now completing his third term as a Commissioner on the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. He also sits on the Executive Committee of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  Troy has also served on numerous Advisory Panels for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.  Also, he still raises cotton and wheat on the Williamson farm.

Mr. Williamson answered the following questions to provide some insight on his perspective of the Gulf fishery:

What do you hope to bring to the Council?
I plan to focus on what is good for the fishery and the fishermen. I have my own experience and perspective.  I hope to make decisions that benefit everyone.

What aspect of the fishery is the most important to you?
For me, the most interesting part of the fishery that relates to humans and how fisheries and management impact the economy and community. Rebuilding of the fish populations is a success story and now, we need to shift our focus towards successfully managing fishermen.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment or story to tell?
Generally, I enjoy every opportunity I have to fish, especially fly-fishing.  I learned at an early age that sport fishing is about the experience, not the catching.  Being on the water with family and friends makes every trip a “favorite."