Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Meet the Council: Mr. Troy Williamson

Meet the Council: Mr. Troy Williamson, Recreational Angler and Advocate from Texas

Getting ready for a day on the Gulf
The Gulf Council is comprised of fishermen and other experts in the fishery from states across the Gulf of Mexico. Drawing upon the expertise of these local fishermen ensures that federal fishing regulations are made with direct understanding of and passion for our fishery. The Council is pleased to welcome aboard its newest member, Mr. Troy Williamson. 

Troy Williamson developed a deep appreciation for fishing at a young age. His love of the sport is rooted in a memory of his grandma. She would take him down to the creek that ran along the edge of the Williamson cotton farm and sit, reading with an umbrella to shading her from the Texas sun, while he fished. He says that he can’t remember catching any fish at all; it was simply an experience he shared with her.

Troy’s passion for the outdoors grew along with him. He initially wanted to be a fisheries biologist, and worked for a summer at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Marine Lab in Rockport. Then, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in biology and chemistry. Eventually, Troy earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence degree.

Troy fishing for his supper
While his path led him away from the natural sciences and into a career as a civil trial lawyer, Troy always remained interested in fisheries. He found an outlet for his passion in advocation with the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). His involvement with CCA opened new doors and he is now completing his third term as a Commissioner on the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. He also sits on the Executive Committee of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  Troy has also served on numerous Advisory Panels for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.  Also, he still raises cotton and wheat on the Williamson farm.

Mr. Williamson answered the following questions to provide some insight on his perspective of the Gulf fishery:

What do you hope to bring to the Council?
I plan to focus on what is good for the fishery and the fishermen. I have my own experience and perspective.  I hope to make decisions that benefit everyone.

What aspect of the fishery is the most important to you?
For me, the most interesting part of the fishery that relates to humans and how fisheries and management impact the economy and community. Rebuilding of the fish populations is a success story and now, we need to shift our focus towards successfully managing fishermen.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment or story to tell?
Generally, I enjoy every opportunity I have to fish, especially fly-fishing.  I learned at an early age that sport fishing is about the experience, not the catching.  Being on the water with family and friends makes every trip a “favorite."

Monday, August 5, 2019

August Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 12-15, 2019. As always, we would love to have you join us in person, but if that’s not practical you’re welcome to tune in via webinar.

Public comment will take place on Wednesday, August 14th, from 2:00 – 5:30 PM. If you can’t testify in person, visit our “Amendments Under Development” webpage to learn about what we’re working on and submit your comments.

At this meeting, the Council will be presented an application for an Exempted Fishing Permit. The Council will take testimony on the permit and make a recommendation to NOAA Fisheries regarding whether or not the project should be approved. You’re welcome to read the application and submit your comments on the proposed exempted fishing permit:

The Agenda and Meeting Materials will help you prepare for the meeting. The following is a brief summary of some of the issues that will be discussed:

Gray Snapper
The Council expects to take final action on an amendment that considers setting or revising values that will be used to determine stock status for gray snapper and adjust the annual catch limits. Currently, the Council has chosen preferred alternatives for gray snapper status determination criteria that minimize buffers and are consistent with the idea that the gray snapper stock is quite resilient. Also, under the Council’s preferred alternatives, the annual catch target will be eliminated and the new annual catch limit will be set at a value between the existing annual catch target and annual catch limit.

Modification to the Recreational For-Hire Red Snapper Annual Catch Target Buffer
The Council plans to take final action on a Framework Action that considers reducing the buffer between the federal for-hire component annual catch limit and annual catch target.  A previous framework action modified the buffer by reducing it from 20% to 9% for 2019 only. Reducing the buffer for the for-hire component on a more permanent basis is expected to allow a greater harvest while continuing to constrain landings to the annual catch limit.  The action does not address the private angling component, because private anglers are being managed by the individual states.

Recreational Greater Amberjack
Photo: Hubbards Marina
The Council will begin work on a framework action that considers modifying recreational management measures with the goal of allowing recreational harvest in both spring and fall. Recent recreational greater amberjack management changes modified the fishing year so that the quota renews on August 1 instead of January 1.  The fishing season opens in the fall from August – October with the new quota, and then any remaining quota is used to open a May season in the following year.  These changes went into effect in 2018, and the entire quota was harvested in the 2018 August – October season, with no May 2019 season. The document includes options that consider changing the fishing year, bag limits, and modifications to the current season structure.

For-Hire Trip Limits
Photo: Jim Green
Anglers on federal for-hire trips may retain two daily bag limits of reef fish, king mackerel, and Spanish mackerel if the trip lasts longer than 24 hours, has two licensed captains onboard, and all anglers are in possession of a receipt showing the duration of the trip.  Currently, anglers on such trips may not retain their second daily bag limit until 24 hours have passed.  However, this is not how many operators have fished historically.  The Council will work on a framework amendment that considers modifying the two-day bag limit allowance for multi-day federal for-hire trips.

Red Snapper Allocation
The Council will continue work on Reef Fish Amendment 52 which considers reallocating the red snapper annual catch limit between recreational and commercial sectors.. The Council previously passed Amendment 28, which reallocated red snapper by shifting 2.5% of the commercial sector’s allocation to the recreational sector. However, a lawsuit resulted in the district court decision which vacated Amendment 28 and restored the previous sector allocations of 49% recreational and 51% commercial.

Status Determination Criteria
The Council will continue to work on an amendment that aims to define, and in some cases modify, existing biological reference points for reef fish and red drum. The Council must set maximum sustainable yield (MSY), maximum fishing mortality thresholds (MFMT), minimum stock size thresholds (MSST), and optimum yield levels for managed stocks. These reference points are the basis for determining the health of each stock and are required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and National Standard 1 guidelines.

Modifications to Commercial Individual Fishing Quota Programs
The Council will review a draft of Amendment 36B, which considers modifying the commercial individual fishing quota programs with the intent to assist small participants and new entrants to the IFQ programs, reduce discards, and increase access to shares to actively fishing, eligible commercial fishermen.