Friday, August 21, 2020

August Council Meeting Preview

 

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet by webinar August 24-28, 2020. The Committee and Council Agendas, and meeting material are available on the Council Meeting Webpage.

 

You will be able to join the webinar at this link during the meeting. Public testimony will be held on Thursday beginning at 1:20 PM EDT. Details on how to successfully join the meeting and


provide testimony can be found here.

 

Additionally, the Gulf Council and NOAA Fisheries will host a Question and Answer Session with the public beginning at 4:30 PM, EDT on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. Details on how to join that session can be found here.

 

The Council will hear presentations on a number of interesting topics including: Shrimp logbooks, commercial logbooks, the Southeast For-Hire Electronic Reporting Program, and depredation by marine mammals. The following is a brief summary of some of the issues that will be discussed next week:

 

Red Drum and Coastal Migratory Pelagic Advisory Panel Member Selection

The Council will make final appointments to its Red Drum and Coastal Migratory Pelagic Advisory Panels. Advisory Panel members are appointed for a 3-year term.

 

Impacts of COVID-19

The Council plans to continue discussing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and may consider management changes to ease those impacts. The Council will continue to follow guidelines set by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act while considering temporary or long-term changes to regulations that may offset economic impacts from the pandemic.

 

Recommendations on Executive Order 13921

The President of the United States recently signed an Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth. The Executive Order aims to improve the competitiveness of our domestic seafood industry, put more Americans to work, and place more sustainably sourced and safe-to-eat seafood products on our families’ tables. Section 4 of the Executive Order, Removing Barriers to American Fishing, requires the Regional Fishery Management Councils to submit a prioritized list of recommended actions to reduce burdens on domestic fishing and to increase production within sustainable fisheries. The Council will review public input and is expected to provide a prioritized list of regulations for removal.

 

Status Determination Criteria 

The Council must define a maximum sustainable yield (MSY), a maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT), a minimum stock size threshold (MSST), and an optimum yield (OY) for all 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. The Council will work on a public hearing draft of Reef Fish Amendment 48/Red Drum Amendment 5, which aims to define, and in some cases modify, existing status determination criteria for reef fish and red drum.

 

State and Federal Recreational Data Collection Calibrations

The Council will discuss  calibration efforts involving recreational data collection programs. First, it will consider the Federal Marine Recreational Information Program’s (MRIP) transition to a new survey methodology, the Fishing Effort Survey (FES), and the resulting recreational data calibrations.  The Council will also hear a summary of the recent Red Snapper MRIP and State Data Calibration Webinar.  The Council will hear recommendations about how state survey data may be used in federal stock assessments and it will hear recommendations from its Scientific and Statistical Committee about how to calibrate results from each of the different surveys so they can be used in science and management.

 

Photo: FWC
Red Grouper Catch Limits and Sector Allocations

The Council will continue working on Reef Fish Amendment 53 which considers modifying red grouper commercial and recreational sector allocations and catch limits based on the results of the latest stock assessment (SEDAR 61).  The assessment showed that the red grouper stock is lower than it has ever been.  Additionally, the assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program’s (MRIP) calibrated Fishing Effort Survey landings and effort estimates, which increased the estimates of recreational harvest.

 

Commercial Individual Fishing Quota Programs

At this meeting, the Council will review a public hearing draft of amendment 36B which considers requiring individual fishing quota shareholder accounts to be associated with a commercial reef fish permit.

 

Lane Snapper

The most recent update assessment of lane snapper uses the new calibrated landings and effort data from the Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey and allows for a significant increase in the acceptable biological catch level.  The Council will review guidance

Photo: Hubbard's Marina
from its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and work on a document to revise the lane snapper annual catch limits.

 

Yellowtail Snapper

The Council will hear a summary of the most recent yellowtail snapper stock assessment (SEDAR 64). The assessment was conducted for the entire Southeast which includes Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Council jurisdictions. Yellowtail is not experiencing overfishing and is not overfished. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee plans to discuss appropriate methods for determining the Overfishing Limit and Acceptable Biological Catch levels for the yellowtail stock at a meeting in late September. The Council will consider updating the yellowtail snapper acceptable biological catch limits after it hears Overfishing Limit and Biological Catch recommendations from its Scientific and Statistical Committee.

 

Cobia

The Council will receive the results of the most recent Cobia stock assessment update. The update, which incorporates new recreational catch information from the MRIP Fishing Effort

Photo: Rosemary White
Survey, shows that Cobia is not overfished but is currently experiencing overfishing.  The Council will review its Scientific and Statistical Committees Overfishing Limit and Acceptable biological Catch recommendations and may initiate an amendment to adjust the current cobia catch thresholds.

Monday, June 8, 2020

June Council Meeting Preview

June Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet June 15-18, 2020 by webinar. The Committee and Council Agendas, and meeting materials will be posted as they become available on the Council Meeting’s webpage. Information on how to register for the webinar will also be posted as it becomes available.

Public testimony will be held during the meeting. Details on how to provide testimony during the meeting will be posted on the Council Meeting’s webpage when it becomes available.

Fishing Access in Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Marine Protected Areas
The Council plans to take final action on a document that considers modifying trolling provisions and possession prohibitions in Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Marine Protected Areas. Fishing activity is limited in Steamboat Lumps and Madison-Swanson to protect gag grouper spawning aggregations.  Currently, no bottom fishing is allowed in those areas, but surface trolling is permitted during part of the year.  It is difficult to enforce the no-bottom-fishing regulation when surface trolling is allowed, and the Council heard concerns that illegal recreational bottom fishing is occurring in the areas.
·      Submit Comments


Impacts of COVID-19
The Council plans to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and may consider management changes to ease those impacts. The Council aims to gather input from fishermen and those involved in fishing-related businesses whose fishing effort or businesses have been directly affected by COVID-19. The Council will continue to follow guidelines set by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act while considering temporary or long-term changes to regulations that may offset economic impacts from the pandemic.
·      Share information on how COVID-19 has impacted your fishing and business using this COVID-19 Comment Tool



Red Drum and Coastal Migratory Pelagic Advisory Panel Member Selection
During closed session, the Council will review applicants and populate its Coastal Migratory Pelagic and Red Drum Advisory Panels. A background check will be performed on selected applicants and membership to both panels will be announced at the August Council meeting.

Vermilion Snapper
The Council will review SEDAR 67: Vermilion Snapper stock assessment which concluded that vermilion is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. The Council will hear recommendations from its Scientific and Statistical Committee and may consider initiating an amendment to update vermilion snapper management.




Red Grouper
The Council will continue working on Reef Fish Amendment 53 which considers modifying red grouper commercial and recreational sector allocations and catch limits based on the results of the latest stock assessment (SEDAR 61).  The assessment showed that the red grouper stock is lower than it has ever been.  Additionally, the assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program’s (MRIP) calibrated Fishing Effort Survey landings and effort estimates, which increased the estimates of recreational harvest.

Lane Snapper
At its last meeting, the Council was presented with the results of updated yield projections for lane snapper (based on SEDAR 49).  The assessment uses the new calibrated landings and effort data from the Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey and allows for a significant increase in the acceptable biological catch level.  The Council will review guidance from its Scientific and Statistical Committee and work on a document to revise the lane snapper annual catch limits.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

January Council Meeting Preview


The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 27-30, 2020. You’re more than welcome to join us in person or via webinar.

Public comment will be held on Wednesday, January 29th, from 1:45 – 5:30 PM. If you can’t join us to comment, visit our “Amendments Under Development” webpage to learn more about what we’re working on and submit comments.

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:


Photo: Capt. Jennings
Greater Amberjack
The Council is trying to figure out the best way to manage recreational greater amberjack. In 2018, the Council modified the recreational amberjack fishing year so that the quota renews on August 1st. That was supposed to allow for fishing seasons August – October and then May in the following calendar year, if there was any quota left. Unfortunately, the entire quota was harvested in the fall season that year so, we didn’t get a May season in 2019. (Note: We still don’t know if we’ll have a May season this year and expect NOAA fisheries to give us that news as soon as they can process the harvest data from the end of last year).

The Council is still looking for ways to allow recreational harvest in both fall and spring since different anglers from different parts of the Gulf prefer to fish amberjack at different times. We will discuss a document that considers managing recreational greater amberjack with different zones and bag limits. This Recreational Greater Amberjack Decision Tool will allow you to explore some of the different management alternatives that are currently being considered.

Photo: Capt. Hubbard
Red Grouper
A recent red grouper stock assessment (SEDAR 61) determined that the red grouper stock is smaller than it has ever been. Additionally, the assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program’s landings and effort estimates, which more than doubled the estimates of recreational harvest.

The Council will begin working on Reef Fish Amendment 53 which considers modifying commercial and recreational sector allocations and catch limits based on the results of the latest assessment.

Fishing Access in Eastern Gulf Marine Protected Areas
The Council’s Reef Fish Advisory Panel expressed concern that illegal recreational bottom fishing is occurring in Steamboat Lumps and Madison Swanson Marine Protected Areas. Regulations in those areas were created to protect grouper spawning aggregations. Currently, no bottom fishing is allowed in the areas, but trolling is permitted during part of the year. It is difficult to enforce the no-bottom-fishing regulation when trolling is allowed. So, in an effort to ensure grouper spawning aggregations are protected as intended, the Council will take its first look at a framework action that is considers prohibiting all fishing in the Steamboat Lumps and Madison Swanson Protected Areas.

Status Determination Criteria
The Council must define a maximum sustainable yield, a maximum fishing mortality threshold, a minimum stock size threshold, and an optimum yield for all 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. The Council will work on a public hearing draft of Reef Fish Amendment 48/Red Drum Amendment 5, which aims to define, and in some cases modify, existing status determination criteria for reef fish and red drum.

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.

Commercial Individual Fishing Quota Programs
At its last meeting, the Council decided to split Amendment 36B into two separate documents. At this meeting, it will review a new version of 36B which considers requiring individual fishing quota shareholder accounts to be associated with a commercial reef fish permit. The Council will also take its first look at Amendment 36C which considers a mechanism for distributing unused shares reclaimed by NOAA Fisheries, quota banks, and modifying the accuracy of estimated weights in advance landings notifications.

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."