Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Maps, Management Tools, and Educational Resources

Photo: G.P. Schmal FGBNMS
Have you ever scoured the internet in search of new fishing spots? Tried to figure out where you can or can’t fish? Do you ever research a particular species or habitat in the Gulf of Mexico? Do you wonder about the information and decision-making process behind fishing regulations? If so, we’re delighted to share a resource that may help you find all of those things in one place.

The Gulf Council has recently remodeled its Coral Portal, a website that houses a range of interactive maps, tools for making management decisions, and educational resources. Development of the site is funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, and the project aims to share environmental information associated with corals and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico with folks who use the Gulf for business, recreation, and research.

Click here to visit the coral portal:

Resources on the Portal are organized in three different categories:

Coral Viewer
This suite of interactive maps allows you to explore management areas and different known habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. To highlight a few, the Fishery Management Areas Map shows jurisdictional boundaries and areas in the Gulf with fishing restrictions. The Spiny Lobster Closed Area map highlights the areas off the Florida Keys where lobster traps are prohibited to protect threated staghorn and elkhorn corals. There are also a number of maps devoted specifically to coral including: The Coral Viewer which shows known coral areas in the Gulf, the Coral HAPC Explorer which shows the locations of current and recommended coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern, and the Predictive Modeling of Deep-Sea Coral Habitat Map which uses factors like depth, bottom shape, and salinity, to predict where deep water corals may exist.

Proposed HAPC's in Coral Amendment 9 
This section of the Portal focuses on tools that highlight management issues being considered by the Gulf Council. Currently, you’ll find a summary of the 5-year review of Essential Fish Habitat that was recently completed, including profiles of federally managed species and their habitat associations. You’ll also find a management tool that will help to inform you about Coral Amendment 9 – which considers establishing new deep-water coral protections in the Gulf. You can analyze management actions being considered by the Gulf Council using the map tool that highlights potential Habitat Areas of Particular Concern. This section of the Coral Portal will be updated as new management measures are considered.

Lionfish Storyboard
Here you’ll find a variety of different resources designed to enhance your understanding of corals, habitats, and the species linked to them. There are interactive articles on topics like lionfish, goliath, and coral management. Additionally, you’ll find a link to the Portal blog which is jam packed with posts on different habitats. Finally, you’ll find clickable posters that display creatures and habitats of the deep Gulf of Mexico.

New material is added frequently, so check back in to see what we’ve been working on.

As you explore the resources on the updated Coral Portal please let us know what you think. We would love to hear what’s working (or not) and what other tools you may find useful. Contact us at with questions, comments, and suggestions.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Meet The Council - Phil Dyskow and Dr. Bob Shipp

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is composed of the five Gulf State Marine Resource Directors, the Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries, and 11 members of the public who have experience and expertise in the fishery. The Council recently welcomed Dr. Greg Stunz back to the Council for his second term and inducted new member Phil Dyskow and retuning member Dr. Bob Shipp.

Phil Dyskow

Phil Dyskow, the former president of Yamaha Marine Group, is a life-long recreational angler with experience in both inshore and offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. He’s no stranger to advising the Federal Government on marine issues. He’s served two appointments on both the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, the group responsible for advising the Secretary of Commerce on all living marine resource matters, and the National Boating Safety Advisory Council under the Secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Dyskow has also received numerous honors and awards related to his professional prowess in the marine industry and his conservation service. He was inducted into the Marine Industry Hall of Fame and had been named the 2015 CCC Manufacturer “Man” of the Year. He’s received the Kenai River Guardia Award and served as a board member for the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the Kenai River in Alaska. He’s also been named an Honorary Legacy Life Member of the Coastal Conservation Association, a group focused on the conservation of marine resources to ensure future availability of those resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public.

Phil comes from a long line of boaters and waterman.  He learned to fish from his grandfather who lived to be over 100 and fished and rowed his own boat into his late 90’s.  His father was also an avid hunter, fisherman and boater.  Phil began recreational fishing at age 5 and it turned into a lifelong focus both as a pastime and as a career.  He has worked in the fishing tackle, boat and marine engine industries his entire adult life. Phil says, “as my career developed, I began to understand the importance of preserving and protecting our precious marine resources for future generations to use and enjoy.  Being active in managing our Gulf resources is a way to pay back for an industry that has been very good to me.”

Mr. Dyskow answered the following questions to provide more insight on his perspective on the fishery:

What is the most important issue in our fishery right now?
“I believe that the most important issue we face is the need to create a better balance of regulation and policy that meets the needs of the broad group of stakeholders we represent.”
What can the Gulf Council do to improve management?
“The best thing we can do to improve management is to look beyond our own personal focus to embrace the ideas of others.”

Do you have a favorite fishing story to share?
“I really don't have a favorite fishing story.  All of the time I spend on the Gulf is special to me, especially the time just before dawn when a new day is beginning.”

Bob Shipp

Dr. Bob Shipp is one of the most well-known fisheries scientists across the Gulf coast. He has spent his life researching and appreciating the fish of the Gulf of Mexico. His passion for the ocean was ignited at the early age of 4 by his grandfather with whom he enjoyed countless hours of surf fishing from the shores of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. As he grew a bit older he and his cousins spent summers snorkeling jetties and piers collecting fish and invertebrates for aquariums. Eventually, Bob got into SCUBA diving when it was first becoming a recreational activity.

During his childhood Dr. Shipp moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he began his academic pursuit of fisheries. He focused on marine biology as much as he could, making it the topic of every school project possible. Dr. Shipp explains “My friends from those days joke with me now for being the only one of the group that followed through with my harebrained teenage career dreams.”

After graduating from Spring Hill College, Dr. Shipp attended Florida State University where he earned his master’s degree and PhD. Shortly thereafter he began working for the University of South Alabama teaching anatomy and physiology. He quickly moved into a fisheries biology position where his career flourished. He chaired the biology department and served as the acting director at the Sea Lab on Dauphin Island. He recently retired after serving 20 years as the chairman of the Department of Marine Sciences.

In addition to his work with the university, Dr. Shipp served for 12 years as the Director for the Alabama chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association. He has also been a judge for the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo since 1982. He authors articles for multiple magazines and scientific papers, and he published “Dr. Bob Shipp’s Guide to Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Dr. Bob Shipp answered a few questions to give us some insight on his perspective of our Gulf fishery.

What is the most important issue in our fishery right now?
“I’m concerned that federal fishery law (the Magnuson-Stevens Act) prevents the Council from trying innovative fishery management techniques. Requiring species to be managed using quotas prevents the use of tools like Marine Protected Areas to manage our fish. Our hands are tied by the Act and it shows – the red snapper stock is healthier than it’s ever been, and we still have shorter and shorter fishing seasons – we obviously need the freedom to try something different.”

What can the Gulf Council do to improve management?
“The Council’s options are very few. Under the current system we can only tweak things rather than solve problems. The idea of Regional Management, for example, still only allows the Council to change some minor management measures like seasons and bag limits, while the major problems still remain.”

Do you have a favorite fishing story to share?
“I have a group of close friends that I went to high school with who wanted to experience some yellowfin tuna fishing. They are mostly freshwater fishermen and had not had the opportunity to spend much time off-shore. We all got together for a weekend after 41 years apart, and spent the day 100 miles out catching yellowfin. I had so much fun watching them experience such an amazing day on the water. We used kite baits, and at one point the tuna were leaping 8 feet out of the water. The excitement really transported us all back to our giddy 15-year-old selves again, and for that reason we now make the trip an annual event. It’s always one of my favorite outings of the year.”

Monday, September 25, 2017

October 2017 Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meets at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi next week.  You’re welcome to join us at the meeting or to listen via a live broadcast from the comforts of home.

Public testimony will be held on Wednesday, October 4 from 12:30 – 5:00 p.m. local time.  If you can’t make it to the meeting to give your comments in person, please visit our “Amendments Under Development” page to learn about and comment on the issues being considered.  Comments received before Wednesday, September 27th will be summarized and presented directly to the Council before it takes action.

The agenda and meeting materials will help you prepare.  The following is a summary of some of the important issues the Council plans to address:

Photo: Avid Angler Fishing Charters 
Greater Amberjack Fishing Year and Recreational Season
The Council recently revised the rebuilding plan for greater amberjack after learning that the stock continues to be overfished and experiencing overfishing despite numerous efforts to rebuild.  During those discussions, the Council recognized that the current recreational season may not be as beneficial as possible to anglers gulf-wide, and decided to consider ways to allow for both fall and spring fishing seasons.  The Council opted to close the 2018 season at the beginning of the year while it works to  put a permanent season solution in place. At this meeting, the Council plans to take final action on a Framework Amendment that considers changing the fishing year and/or the recreational fishing season to ensure that anglers throughout the Gulf are able to harvest greater amberjack.

Federal For-Hire Management
The Council will hear summaries of the Ad-Hoc Reef Fish Headboat and Ad-Hoc Red Snapper Charter For-Hire Advisory Panel meetings that were held in September.  The Council is also expected to take final action on Referendum Eligibility Requirements for Reef Fish Amendment 41 – Allocation Based Management for Federally Permitted Charter Vessels and Reef Fish Amendment 42 – Reef Fish Management for Headboat Survey Vessels.

Amendment 41

Amendment 42

State Management of Red Snapper
The Council will review a draft of documents that consider allowing the Gulf states to manage their historical portion of the red snapper harvest of recreational red snapper out to 200 nautical miles. 

Spiny Lobster Gear Requirements and Cooperative Management Procedure
The Council will look at a draft of Spiny Lobster Amendment 13 which considers making federal regulations for spiny lobster bully netting consistent with regulations recently adopted by the State of Florida.  The Amendment also considers allowing the state of Florida to directly submit proposed lobster regulations to National Marine Fisheries Service without requiring Council action.

Deep Sea Coral Protection Areas
The Council will be presented with a Public Hearing Draft of Coral Amendment 9 which considers creating protections for 15 areas in the Gulf that are known to have an abundance of corals and/or coral diversity that makes them unique.  The areas under consideration are all in deep waters and contain deep-water corals that can live to be hundreds, if not thousands of years, and provide important habitat in the cold, low oxygen, depths of the ocean.  The Council is expected to host public hearings on this document before taking final action in 2018.

Descending Devices and Venting Tools
The Council will review a draft document that considers ways to encourage the use of venting tools or descending devices to reduce mortality of fish that are released, while allowing anglers the flexibility to decide if and when it’s appropriate to use them.

Sea Turtle Release Gear and Protocol
The Council will consider a draft document that would allow the use of new sea turtle release gear types and streamline the process for allowing reef fish permit holders to use additional protected species release gear types and handling procedures.

Submit comment

Selection of Ad Hoc Red Snapper and Grouper-Tilefish IFQ Applicants

At the August meeting, the Council decided to disband the Ad Hoc Red Snapper IFQ Advisory Panel and form a new Ad Hoc Red Snapper/Grouper IFQ Advisory panel so participants in both red snapper and Grouper/Tilefish IFQ programs can work together in an advisory role to the Council. Next week, the Council will review applications and make preliminary Advisory Panel member selections. The Council expects to announce the make-up of the newly formed panel after performing background checks on prospective members.