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Thursday, October 1, 2015

October 2015 Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet next week at the Hilton in Galveston, Texas.

You’re welcome to join us in person or watch a livebroadcast of the meeting. This agenda will help you figure out when the Council will be addressing the fisheries issues that interest you. Here are the background materials you’ll need to follow along.

Public comment will be held from 2:30 – 5:00 pm on Wednesday, October 7.  Here is a quick overview of some of the issues the Council plans to address:


Hint: The Council takes public comment at all times – not just during meetings. If we’re working on a fishery issue and you want to share your thoughts visit our “proposed amendments” page by clicking this thermometer icon from our homepage www.gulfcouncil.org. There you’ll find a variety of documents, guides, videos, and online comment forms for each Amendment.
Photo: Emily Muehlstein
Gag and Black Grouper
The Council expects to take final action on a framework action that considers changing the gag season and size limit and the black grouper size limit. Watch this video and share your opinion before a decision is made.

Red Snapper
The Council will review revised alternatives in Amendment 39: Regional Management – which considers dividing the recreational red snapper quota among different regions in the Gulf to allow for the creation of different management measures that best suit each area.  Public hearings will be hosted in the coming weeks at these dates and locations. We’ll post documents, guides, and videos to this page when they’re ready.

Hogfish
Photo: Emily Muehlstein
The West Florida hogfish stock, which is in the Gulf Council’s jurisdiction, is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. The stock associated with the Florida keys, which falls in both Gulf and South Atlantic Management areas, is both overfished and experiencing overfishing.  Next week, the Council will review a document that considers defining a management unit for hogfish between the two Councils and assigning a catch limit to the Gulf Council managed stock.

Mutton Snapper
The Council will review a framework action that considers setting and annual catch limit, bag limit, and commercial trip limits for mutton snapper.

South Florida Management
The Gulf Council, South Atlantic Council, and State of Florida have been working on a fisheries management plan that aims to streamline regulations in South Florida, particularly off of the Florida Keys.  The Council will review an options paper that considers modifying the management structure and some management measures for yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, black grouper and shallow-water grouper, to make fishing regulations less complicated for commercial and recreational fishermen in the area.

Photo: iStock


Mackerel
The Council will review two public hearing drafts for amendments that consider making some changes to king and Spanish mackerel management. Amendment 26 considers making modifications to allocations, stock boundaries and sale provisions of king mackerel, and Amendment 28 considers separating permits for Gulf and Atlantic king and Spanish mackerel.



Photo: Emily Muehlstein

Shrimp
The Council will review a public hearing draft for Shrimp Amendment 17A - which considers what to do about the pending expiration of the federal shrimp permit moratorium. The Council expects to host public hearings on this amendment in January.
  
The Council will also review a draft options paper for Shrimp Amendment 17B – that considers establishing an optimum yield, target number of permits, permit pool, and addressing transit provisions through federal waters.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gulf Council Publishes Known Coral Locations in Gulf

Photo: sonarnavigator.net
As an offshore fisherman, you’ve probably spent a good bit of time on the water staring at your bottom machine in search of new fishing grounds. When the screen lights up with ripples or spikes you know the spot could be holding some awesome fish. And, if you’re anything like me, you wonder “what’s actually down there?”

As a diver, you might have the opportunity to see for yourself, or you can drop a camera overboard to get a better look. Chances are you’ll find some kind of reef. It might be artificial, it might be rocky, or it might be a coral reef. No matter what, you probably already associate reef structure with fish.

Photo: Sea Grant
Coral reefs are a crucial foundation for many of the marine species living in the Gulf of Mexico. They provide food, shelter, and nursery grounds to a seemingly endless list of fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and other inhabitants of all shapes and sizes. Many of the fish we target as commercial or recreational fishermen spend some part of their life on a reef feeding, growing, or seeking shelter – that’s why these habitats are so important.

Unfortunately, coral reefs, their health, and abundance, are threatened by many things including; oil spills, ocean acidification, climate change, and rising ocean temperatures.  Advances in technology such as satellite imagery and remote sensors that monitory the ever-changing ocean environment have allowed scientists to better understand the factors threatening coral reefs. Knowing the location of known coral communities allows for better management against the array of threats posed on corals.  

The coral web mapper created by the Gulf Council allows users to explore the different corals across the Gulf of Mexico. This database will allow scientists, managers, and the public, to interact with coral reef locations to make protecting them and understanding their risk much easier so potentially harmful factors can be managed before coral communities are endangered.

The five categories of corals/organisms that are depicted on the map tool are:
Photo: NOAA

  • Black Coral (or Antipatharians) – a group of branching corals are often associated with deep reef habits. Although their exterior flesh is usually red, white, or orange, their internal skeleton is black. Black corals can live to for thousands of years. In fact, one from the Gulf of Mexico was aged to be more than 2000 years old. These corals are a valuable tool for scientists because their skeletons contain rings, like trees. The rings have chemical signatures that allow scientists to learn about past oceanic environments. Black corals have also been harvested for jewelry, a practice which is not sustainable.
  • Hydrozoan Coral – colonies of individual animals that form a very rigid soft coral. Fire coral and lace coral are some of the best known colonies of hydrozoan. Hydrozoans have very interesting lives with two different life stages and two different strategies for reproduction. Hydrozoan coral colonies are made up of animals in the polyp stage of life when the animal is attached to a hard surface. Hydrozoan polyps reproduce by releasing buds that become free-swimming organisms. The free swimming hydrozoans are in the medusa state of life. They look very different from their stationary parents and reproduce sexually to form new polyps and begin the cycle again.
Photo: Sea Grant
  • Octocoral (or Anthozoans) – non reef-building soft corals. Octocorals can take on many different shapes, sizes, and colors but are easily identified in any form because they all have eight-fold symmetry. These corals are very hardy and can be some of the easiest corals to grow in aquariums.

  • Stony coral (or Scleractinians) –hard corals that are the primary reef building corals of the world. These corals have skeletons made of calcium carbonate (Aragonite), covered with polyps. All stony corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae that lives inside the polyps. The algae, called zooxanthellae, produce oxygen and other nutrients that are used by the polyps; the polyps produce carbon dioxide that is used by the algae. Brain corals and elkhorn corals are some of the more well known stony corals.
  • Sea Anemones –predatory animals are attached to the seafloor. They feed using tentacles that inject prey with paralyzing neurotoxins and then guide animals into their mouth for digestion. Like stony corals, some anemones have symbiotic relationships with algae that provide sugar and oxygen in exchange for shelter and exposure to the sun. Other anemones have mutualistic relationships with fish that live in their tentacles to escape predation from other fish.
Check out the map tool to explore this comprehensive inventory of known coral locations in the Gulf of Mexico.  Click on each spot for more information on the depth and coral type so you can get more familiar with the types of coral habitats that are common near your fishing grounds.

Monday, August 3, 2015

August 2015 Council Meeting Preview

Photo: Primofish
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet next week at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, Louisiana.

You’re welcome to join us in person or watch a live broadcast of the meeting. This agenda will help you figure out when the Council will be discussing the fisheries issues that interest you and, here are all the documents you'll need to follow along. 

Public comment will be held from 1:00 pm  – 5:30 pm on Wednesday, August 12th. Below is a quick review of some of the issues the Council plans to address.



Hint: The Council reviews many different drafts of the same document before taking final action, and afterwards there are even more steps before a rule is implemented. This
thermometer shows how a document progresses through the Council process.


Photo: David Payne

Red Snapper

The Council plans to take final action on Amendment 28: Red Snapper Allocation – which considers reallocating a portion of the commercial red snapper quota to the recreational sector. We encourage you to watch this quick video and send us your comments so the Council can consider your input before making a final decision.

The Council will also finalize a framework action to withhold a portion of the commercial red snapper quota in 2016. This framework will ensure that the commercial allocation that the Council intends to shift to the recreational sector is available in 2016 even if the amendment isn’t implemented until after individual fishing quota is distributed among commercial fishermen.  

The Council will review revised alternatives in Amendment 39: Regional Management – which considers dividing the recreational red snapper quota among different regions in the Gulf to allow for the creation of different management measures that best suit each area.

The Council will also review a draft of Amendment 41 - which considers creating a management plan for federally permitted for-hire vessels fishing for red snapper. The options paper includes both charter vessels and headboats fishing under the for-hire component of the recreational red snapper allocation.

Data Collection
The Council will review a public hearing draft of an amendment being developed jointly between the Gulf and South Atlantic Councils, that considers modifying the frequency and method of reporting for charter and headboats fishing for reef fish and coastal migratory pelagics in the Gulf of Mexico, and snapper, grouper, dolphin, wahoo, and coastal migratory pelagics in the South Atlantic.

Reef Fish
Photo: G. French
The Council will look at a draft framework action that considers modifying the circle hook requirement for commercial yellowtail snapper fishing to address inconsistencies between Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Council regulations.

The Council will also review an options paper for Amendment 42 - which considers creating a management plan for federally permitted headboats fishing for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The document considers which species to include, and how to manage the fishery.

Mackerel
At its June meeting, the Council reviewed input received during the scoping workshops for coastal migratory pelagic Amendments 26 and 28. Next week, the Council will review the options papers developed using the input from those workshops. Amendment 26 considers making modifications to allocations, stock boundaries and sale provisions of king mackerel, and Amendment 28 considers separating permits for Gulf and Atlantic king and Spanish mackerel.

Photo: Emily Muehlstein

Shrimp
The Council will review a draft options paper for Shrimp Amendment 17 – which considers what to do about the pending expiration of the federal shrimp permit moratorium.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June 2015 Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meets at the Marriot Beachside in Key West, Florida next week to discuss a number of fisheries issues.

You can watch a broadcast of the meeting live. Check out the committee and full Council agenda and briefing materials to figure out when the Council will be discussing the items that interest you. Public comment is scheduled from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 10.

Photo: Tarpaw
On Thursday, the Gulf Council will meet jointly with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort inKey West, Florida to address fisheries issues that effect both Councils. Consult this agenda for the joint meeting schedule and briefing materials.

Here is a quick description of some of the things that will be addressed at next weeks meeting:

Mackerel
·      The Council plans to take final action of on the King Mackerel Gillnet Framework Action that considers changing the trip limit, accountability measures, reporting requirements, and inactive permits for the king mackerel gillnet fishery. Watch this quick video and send us your comments so Council can consider your input before making its final decision.

·      The Council will hear a summary of the input received during scoping on Amendment 26: Modifications to Allocations, Stock Boundaries, and Sale provisions of King Mackerel and Amendment 28: Separating Permits for Gulf and Atlantic Migratory Groups of King Mackerel.

Photo: Mary Othello Jackson
Red Snapper
·      The Council will review an updated draft of Amendment 28: Red Snapper Allocation – that considers reallocating a portion of the commercial red snapper quota to the recreational sector. The Council will also review a framework action to withhold a portion of the commercial red snapper quota in 2016. This framework will allow the allocation that the Council intends to shift to the recreational sector to be available in 2016 even if the amendment isn’t implemented until after individual fishing quota is distributed amongst commercial fishermen.  

·      The Council will review revised alternatives in Amendment39: Regional Management – that considers dividing the recreational red snapper quota among different regions in the Gulf to allow for the creation of different management measures that best suit each area.

·      The Council will take another look at the scoping document for Red Snapper IFQ Modifications before moving forward with an options paper.

Photo: Emily Muehlstein
Gag
The Council will review a framework action that considers adjusting the annual catch limits, annual catch targets, and recreational season for gag. Last year, a stock assessment concluded that the gag stock was no longer overfished or experiencing overfishing.

Shrimp
The Council will review an options paper for Amendment 17 that addresses the expiration of the shrimp permit moratorium and is expected to take final action on Shrimp Amendment 15. This amendment looks at adjusting the status determination criteria, such as the overfishing threshold, for brown, white, and pink  shrimp. It also considers changing the shrimp management plans’ framework procedure. If you’re interested in the proposed amendment watch the video, read the guide, and sendus your comments.

South Florida Management
The Gulf Council, South Atlantic Council, and State of Florida have been working on a fisheries management plan that aims to streamline regulations in South Florida, particularly off of the Florida Keys.  The Council will review an options paper that considers modifying the management structure and some management measures for yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, black grouper and shallow-water grouper, to make fishing regulations less complicated for commercial and recreational fishermen in the area.

Photo: Emily Muehlstein
Hogfish

The Council will review the recommendations by its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) relative to hogfish. The latest hogfish assessment determined that there are three distinct hogfish stocks. The western Florida stock is neither overfished or experiencing overfishing. The stock in the Florida Keys and along the east coast of Florida is overfished and experiencing overfishing, and the status of stock off the coast off Georgia and the Carolinas is experiencing overfishing and nearly overfished. The Council’s SSC reviewed the stock assessment and set an acceptable biological catch level for the west Florida stock. The SSC also recommended that the Gulf Council allow the South Atlantic Council to set the acceptable biological catch level for the Florida Keys stock.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Red Snapper: Higher Harvest Limits on the Horizon

Photo: Joseph Cawthorn
Lately, much of the buzz about red snapper management has been less than positive. With sector separation, ever shortening seasons, and allocation on the roster, it’s easy to overlook the good news.

Here it is: The red snapper stock is getting healthier every year; fishermen, scientists, and managers alike know it, and when that happens, harvest limits can be raised.

In January, the Council’s scientific advisors (the Scientific and Statistical Committee) met to review a red snapper update stock assessment. Although the assessment was completed before 2014 landings data were available, results of the assessment suggest good news. The Council could increase allowable harvest by two million pounds for 2015 and beyond. An increase from 11,000,000 pounds to 13,000,000 pounds would bring the allowable harvest to its highest level in history.

Photo: David Payne
But wait, there’s more. Preliminary landings data from 2014 was reported to the Gulf Council during its most recent meeting in Alabama. The provisional landings estimates for 2014 indicate that the catches last year were lower than they were in 2013.  This means that more fish were left in the water in 2014 to spawn and contribute to stock biomass levels. The stock assessment scientists reviewed the 2014 provisional landings and reported that the acceptable biological catch could potentially be increased by nearly a million more pounds. However, the Council cannot use these increased projections to set 2015 quotas until its scientific advisors review the projections and approve new acceptable biological catch levels.


Photo: Kale Reynolds

In an effort to ensure the highest catch levels possible for this year, the Council has scheduled some special meetings to make the changes necessary to increase the 2015 red snapper annual catch limit.

On February 19, 2015, from 2-4 pm EST, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee will meet via webinar to review the provisional 2014 landings and formally suggest overfishing limits and annual catch limits for 2015 and beyond. You’re welcome to listen to that meeting live.


Then, on March 3, 2015, from 1-4 pm EST, the Council will meet via webinar to review the scientific advisors’ recommendations and decide on an annual catch limit for this year and potentially future years. The Council will host public testimony during that meeting; you’re welcome to listen live andgive testimony.