The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met in New Orleans last week to talk fish. The following is an overview of what was discussed at the meeting. I will follow up and post documents and dates for the public hearings that will be conducted on amberjack, red snapper, spiny lobster, and more. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at Emily.Muehlstein@gulfcouncil.org.
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
The Council has asked for analysis of existing allocations and alternatives for reallocation for gag, red grouper, and black grouper. Allocation is the division of Total Allowable Catch for each fish stock between the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. Council will be presented with results of the analysis (by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center) in April 2012 and decide whether or not to move forward with development of new allocation options at that time.
The last greater amberjack stock assessment determined that the stock continues to be overfished and undergoing overfishing. In response, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee adjusted the Acceptable Biological Catch level for 2012 -2014. In Reef Fish Amendment 35 Council considers options that will adjust the current annual catch limit so that it is no higher that the new Acceptable Biological Catch level.
The Council has selected preferred alternatives for the actions in this amendment, and public hearings will be scheduled for sometime in January 2012.
Stay tuned for more info on the upcoming amberjack public hearings. Documents will be posted along with meeting dates and times as soon as arrangements are made.
Fall Season Options and 2012 Total Allowable Catch:
The Council is developing an amendment that may change the structure of the red snapper season and possibly increase the 2012 total allowable catch. Preferred alternatives have been selected for some of the actions in this proposed amendment, and the Council is expected to take final action in February. Documents will be posted as soon as possible.
Restrict Individual Fishing Quota Transfer:
When the red snapper Individual Fishing Quota Program was established it included a provision that would allow any U.S. Citizen or permanent resident alien to buy and sell shares beginning in 2012. The Council is developing an amendment that may limit the transfer of red snapper IFQ shares and allocation to commercial reef fish permit holders. Public hearings will be held to gather public opinion on this amendment sometime next year.
- Creating closed areas to reduce the destruction of corals. – the Council’s preferred alternative would prohibit spiny lobster trapping in areas near endangered coral colonies.
- Using trap line marking requirements to reduce species interactions with gear – the Council’s preferred alternative takes no action on this item.
The harvest of Goliath Grouper has been prohibited since 1990. The Gulf Council has decided to convene a panel with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to explore methods to move the goliath grouper fishery beyond moratorium and find ways to collect information that will help analyze stock status.
The latest vermillion snapper stock assessment found that the stock is neither overfished nor undergoing overfishing. As a result, the Council is preparing a framework action that would increase the 3.42 million pound whole weight vermillion snapper catch limit that was proposed in the Generic Annual Catch Limits/Accountability Measures Amendment.
Crew Size and Income – Reef Fish Amendment 34
The Council reviewed a public hearing draft and chose preferred alternatives that:
- Eliminate the income requirement for Gulf Commercial Reef Fish Permits.
- Increase the maximum crew size to four for dual-permitted vessels.
The Council discussed issues relative to possible management scenarios that would separate the recreational sector into sub-sectors. The Council asked staff to develop a scoping document on sector separation and present it to the Council during the April 2012 Council meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas. The draft document will consider alternatives for allocation decisions and how those decisions translate into Annual Catch Limits and Annual Catch Targets.