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.