Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 2012 Pre-Meeting Study Guide

It’s that time again… The Gulf Council is gearing up to meet next week - August 20th- 23rd - in New Orleans, Louisiana to work on a number of different fishery management issues.

Check out the committee schedule and the full Council schedule to see when Council plans to discuss issues that are important to you.

Photo: Capt. Jennings
If you can’t attend in person, we encourage you to tune in to Gulf Council TV. and watch the meeting live. You should also visit our proposed amendments page and submit comment on any of the issues that interest you.

 If you can make it, you may want to consider attending the:
·      Question and answer session - Tuesday, August 21 at 5:00 PM the Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries will answer any questions you have regarding fishery management in the Gulf.
·      Public Comment session - Wednesday, August 22 at 1:15 PM you can share your fishery management comments with the Council.

Below is a quick summary of what the Council will be working on during the meeting next week. If you have any questions contact me at

Louisiana Management Proposals
The Council will have a discussion with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regarding their proposal for regional management of red snapper and extension of the state boundary line in the Gulf.

Sector Allocations
The Council continues work on a document that explores the allocation of gag, red grouper, black grouper, and red snapper. Allocation is the division of an Annual Catch Limit between fishing sectors.

The current allocations are:

Red Grouper
Black Grouper
Red Snapper

The scoping document that will be presented to the Council at this meeting considers the possibility of setting new allocations for each species, and splitting allocation into commercial, recreational, and for-hire fishing sectors.

Vermilion Snapper
A recent stock assessment determined that vermillion snapper is neither overfished or experiencing overfishing. The Council is considering raising the Annual Catch Limit for vermilion snapper to reflect the fact that the population can sustain a higher level of harvest than is currently allowed.

Commercial Reef Fish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program-
In April of this year the Council suspended work on an amendment that would consider establishing an Individual Fishing Quota Program for:

Photo: Kathy Hoak
·      red porgy
·      vermilion snapper
·      greater amberjack
·      lesser amberjack
·      almaco jack
·      banded rudderfish
·      gray triggerfish

The Council requested that the public submit comments to advise the Council of the potential benefits or drawbacks of using an Individual Fishing Quota system for those species. At this meeting the Council will review the comments that have been received and will determine whether to move forward with the development of Reef Fish Amendment 33.

Gray Triggerfish
The Council will continue work on Reef Fish Amendment 37, which considers:
              Shortening the current rebuilding plan
              Increasing the commercial minimum size limit
              Establishing a commercial closed season
              Establishing a commercial trip limit
              Increasing the recreational minimum size limit
              Establishing a recreational closed season
              Establishing a triggerfish–specific recreational bag limit
              Allowing NOAA Fisheries to close the fishery if the Annual Catch Target is reached

This amendment is being developed because the triggerfish stock is overfished (population is too low) and experiencing overfishing (rate of removals is too high).

Shallow-Water-Grouper Accountability Measures
The Council is expected to make a final decision regarding changing an accountability measure that shortens the following years entire shallow-water-grouper season if the gag or red grouper Annual Catch Limit is exceeded.

2013 Recreational Gag Season
The Council will continue to work on an amendment that considers splitting the recreational season for gag. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) requested that the Gulf Council consider alternative season options that would allow for fishing in both the spring and fall. Opening the season at a different time may reduce the number of fishing days, but will allow for gag fishing at a more desirable time of year.

Seafood Dealer Permit and Reporting Requirements
The Council is expected to take final action on an amendment that aims to improve the accuracy, consistency, and timelines of data reported by seafood dealers in order to reduce the likelihood that Annual Catch Limits will be exceeded.

Essential Fish Habitat – Petroleum Platforms and Artificial Reefs
Council will continue work on an amendment that considers designating petroleum platforms and other artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat.