Wednesday, January 13, 2021

January Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet by webinar January  25-28, 2021. The Committee and Council Agendas, and meeting materials 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 Wednesday, January 27, 2021 from 2:30 – 5:00 PM eastern. 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 from 5:00 – 6:00 PM on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. If you want to speak to ask a question, you must join the webinar online. Alternatively, during the meeting, you can email questions to gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org or text them to (813) 317-6220 and a staff member will ask on your behalf. To listen in by phone, call :  1- (631) 992-3221, access code:  142.143.734

The Council is scheduled to take final action on four items at this meeting. Below is a brief description of each item under consideration and information on how to learn more and submit comment:

Lane Snapper Catch Limits and Accountability Measures

The most recent update assessment of lane snapper, which uses the new calibrated landings and effort data from the Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey, shows an increase in stock biomass. As a result, the Council is considering increasing the overfishing limit, acceptable biological catch, annual catch limit, and annual catch target for lane snapper. Additionally, the Council is considering modifying the in-season closure accountability measure for lane snapper because the annual catch limit has been exceeded numerous times in recent years. 

Read the document
Watch the public hearing video
Submit comment


Gray Triggerfish Catch Limits

A 2020 interim analysis of gray triggerfish showed that there was likely an increase in stock biomass in recent years. The analysis suggested an increase to the gray triggerfish acceptable biological catch, so the Council is considering increasing the annual catch limits and annual catch targets accordingly. 

Watch the public hearing video
Submit comment




Status Determination Criteria and Optimum Yield for Reef Fish and Red Drum

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. A list of fish stocks impacted by this document are below:

Read the document
Watch the public hearing video
Submit comment


Red Snapper Recreational Data Calibration and Recreational Catch Limits

NOAA Fisheries has been using the federal Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) in concert with landings and effort data collected from Gulf state data collection programs to monitor private recreational red snapper seasons. Some estimates generated by the state data collection programs differ from MRIP estimates that were used to generate the current annual catch limits.  Adjustments to the state-specific recreational annual catch limits are being considered to account for the harvest monitoring programs used by each state and to reduce the likelihood of exceeding the red snapper private angling component annual catch limit.  

Read the document
Submit comment


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Highlights from 2020


As 2020 comes to an end, we have an opportunity to look back on the year behind us and look forward to the year ahead. 2020 was a year filled with new challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way most of us conduct our daily business, and the Council was no exception. We spent most of this year tackling changes to the federal recreational data collection program and incorporation of state recreational data collection programs into management and while attempting to understand the implications of these changes on the health of the fish stocks themselves. The Council took final action on a few regulatory documents and made recommendations on an Executive Order, while seeing a number of new rules publish and become implemented into law this year.  Keep reading for a perspective on what we accomplished in 2020 and where we’re headed in 2021.

COVID-19 was the obviously one of the biggest issues faced by everyone this year. Fishermen across the coast were impacted differently. Initially, the Council asked stakeholders to share how the pandemic had impacted them. We heard that the commercial seafood market was interrupted as restaurants closed; recreational fishermen were also affected when charter businesses were unable to operate, and access to boat ramps was limited. The Council monitored landings throughout the year and tried to anticipate if fishing seasons could be extended or commercial quota needed to be rolled over into next year. To date, as the fishery seems to have stabilized, the Council hasn’t made any recommendations on how to mitigate impacts on the industry. Council meetings have transitioned to a completely virtual format since mid-March. We’re all anxious to return to in-person meetings; however, it’s hard to predict when that will become a safe and feasible option.  We are continuing to look at creative ways to engage stakeholders with a virtual meeting format. 

Arguably, the largest fishery management challenge faced by the Council this year is the transition to using recreational landings from the updated federal recreational data collection system and incorporating data from the new state-based recreational data collection systems. The Marine Recreational Information Program’s Fishing Effort Survey (FES) improved some of the previous system’s sampling protocols which resulted in new landings information that has to be accounted for back in time. Additionally, all of the Gulf States have developed their own recreational data collection programs, and landings data from those programs will likely be incorporated in future stock assessments and quota monitoring. Essentially, we’re transitioning to a new data currency to ensure that we’re using the same units to monitor landings as we do to set catch limits. In some cases, the new landings estimates may change our understanding of the stock size and our estimates of the amount of fish that are harvested. As each new stock assessment is completed, estimates of stock abundance and projections of how much can be harvested are updated. For the Council, this means that we need to transition our catch limits to the new data currency, so they align with stock assessment and quota monitoring units. 

The Council is currently in the process of doing that for red grouper, lane snapper, cobia, vermilion snapper, king mackerel, and red snapper. We expect to finalize management recommendations on a majority of the aforementioned species in 2021 and will continue to work on data currency changes as new stock assessments are completed.

The Council took Final Action on one document this year that recommended prohibiting all fishing year-round in both Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Marine Protected Areas and prohibiting the possession of any Gulf reef fish species year-round, except for vessels with a vessel monitoring system (VMS) and a valid commercial reef fish permit that are in transit, with all fishing gear stowed. The increased regulations in the Marine Protected Areas were made to ensure that current protections to gag spawning aggregations are working by making regulations that are more enforceable.

A number of new regulations were implemented into law this year: 

For-Hire historical captain permits were converted to standard for-hire permits. 

The allowable amount of commercial shrimp trawl fishing in certain areas of  federal waters was increased. 

The red snapper buffer between the annual catch limit and annual catch target for the for-hire component of the fishery was reduced.

The Gulf States were given authority to manage fishing season, bag limit, and minimum size limit for the private recreational component of the red snapper fishery. 

The commercial amberjack trip limit was reduced to 1,000 pounds with a reduction to 250 pounds when 75% of the quota is landed. 

The cobia minimum size limit increased from 33 to 36 inches fork length. 

13 new habitat areas of particular concern were created with fishing regulations, 8 new areas without fishing regulations were established, and regulations in 3 existing areas were modified. 

Status determination criteria were established for gray snapper and the annual catch limits for gray snapper were reduced by small amount in 2020 and beyond. The annual catch target was removed for gray snapper.  

Next year, we expect two rules to be implemented. First, the Council has recommended modifying for-hire multiday trip limits by allowing anglers on federal for-hire fishing trips that last longer than 30 hours to possess two daily bag or vessel limits at any time during those trips. Next, new electronic for-hire reporting requirements take effect on January 5th. Captains in the Gulf will be required to make a trip declaration (hail-out) every time their vessel leaves the dock and they must complete a fishing report for each fishing trip before offloading fish. Also, position reporting requirements are expected to go into effect sometime later in 2021.  

As we say farewell several colleagues, many of us are eager for the turn of the year.  Personally, and professionally, we hope to learn from our experiences during 2020 which have, if nothing else, taught us some new tricks and helped us prioritize what is important, and what we might want to let go of once we return to “business as usual.” We do know the Council is going to continue to work as hard as we can to provide make management decisions that benefit our fishermen and our fisheries. Thank you for all your hard work this year, on and off the water.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

New Regulations Protect Deep-Water Corals


Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Healthy coral reef ecosystems support fisheries and recreational activities across the world. Deep-water coral reefs found in light-limited environments deeper than 164 feet (27 fathoms) are different from the typical shallow coral reefs you might be familiar with. They can live to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old and provide important habitat to many fishes and invertebrates in a part of the ocean that is cold, dark, and low in oxygen. 

This week, new regulations go in place to protect some of the most precious deep-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico. Coral Amendment 9 established 13 new habitat areas of particular concern with fishing regulations and designated 8 new habitat areas of particular concern without fishing regulations. The particular areas protected by Coral Amendment 9 were chosen because they serve an important ecological function, are sensitive to human induced degradation, the habitat is stressed, or they’re rare. 

You’re probably wondering how these new coral protections might affect you. Most of the areas are extremely deep and fishing activity is sparse, so it shouldn’t impact most fishermen too much, although bottom anchoring by any fishing vessel is prohibited in the areas. The regulations only limit the deployment of bottom-tending gear, including bottom longline, bottom trawl, buoy gear, dredge, pot, or trap, so this almost exclusively limits commercial fishing activity. 

If you’re interested in exploring the new areas, this map will show you the locations of these new protected areas. Additionally, the new areas with regulations can be found on the Management Areas tab of our Federal Fishing Regulations

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding these new coral protections. 


Monday, October 26, 2020

October Council Meeting Preview


The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet by webinar October 26-29, 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 Wednesday, October 28, 2020 from 1:00 – 3:30 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 Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Details on how to join that session can be found here

The following is a brief summary of what till be discussed during the meeting:

Recommendations on Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth
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 is expected finalize a prioritized list of regulations for removal.

State Recreational Red Snapper Catch Limits
The Council recently delegated some management authority to the Gulf states to set the private angling red snapper fishing season, bag limit, and minimum size limit. NOAA Fisheries has been using the federal Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) in concert with landings and effort data collected from Gulf state data collection programs to monitor private recreational red snapper seasons. The Council will take its first look at a draft document that considers adjusting the individual state red snapper catch limits to account for the harvest monitoring programs used by each state. 

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.

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 continue to work on a document to revise the lane snapper annual catch limits.

Gray Triggerfish
The Council will be presented will a summary of an interim analysis of the gray triggerfish stock that uses video surveys to estimate abundance. The analysis shows that the triggerfish stock has been increasing, especially in the eastern Gulf, and that catch limits can be increased. The Councils Scientific and Statistical Committee recommended increasing the gray triggerfish acceptable biological catch limit to 456,900 pounds. The current gray triggerfish annual catch limit is 305,300 pounds so, the Council will consider initiating work on a document to adjust the catch limit to reflect the increase. 

Commercial Individual Fishing Quota Programs
At this meeting, the Council will continue to 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.

King Mackerel
The Council will be presented with results of an update stock assessment for king mackerel. The update assessment determined that king mackerel is not overfished and is not experiencing overfishing. It also suggests maintaining current catch levels because the king mackerel stock seems to be responding well to current management practices. The Council will also hear a summary of public input on the health of the stock that it received through its Something’s Fishy with King Mackerel tool. The Council will review overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch recommendations from its Scientific and Statistical Committee and may consider initiating a document to adjust current king mackerel annual catch levels. 

Cobia
The Council recently reviewed results of and update stock assessment for Cobia. The assessment showed that cobia is not overfished but is currently experiencing overfishing. The assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program’s recreational landings and effort estimates which increased the estimates of recreational harvest and consequently, increased the estimate of total biomass. The Councils Scientific and Statistical Committee provided overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch recommendations for 2021-2023 and beyond.  As a result, the assessment projections appear to allow for increased harvest but actually represent an approximate 30% reduction from the current allowable harvest. The Council is obligated to end overfishing and consider updating cobia annual catch limits. The Council will take a first look at an amendment that considers modifying cobia catch limits and management measures including bag limits, vessel limits, and size limits. 


Thursday, September 24, 2020

September Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet by webinar September 28-30, 2020. This meeting is being held to replace the regularly scheduled August Council meeting which was cancelled because two hurricanes developed in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Committee and Council Agendas, and meeting materials 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 Wednesday, September 30 beginning at 9:30 AM EDT. Details on how to successfully join the meeting and provide public testimony can be found here. 

Additionally, the Gulf Council and NOAA Fisheries will host a Question and Answer Session with the public beginning at 4:30PM, EDT on Tuesday, September 29, 2020. Details on how to join that session can be found here.

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 on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth
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.

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 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.




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.