Reef Fish Management Plans

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Reef Fish Management Plan Archives 

Modifications to Federally Permitted Seafood Dealer Reporting Requirements

This amendment consolidates the existing South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico federal dealer permits and requires permits for dealers who currently are not required to have one. The amendment additionally increases the frequency of federal dealer reporting from monthly to weekly and establishes requirements to maintain a federal dealer permit.

Framework Action to Modify the Reef Fish Permit Condition for For-hire Vessels

This framework action was approved by the Council in February 2014 and was submitted to NMFS on March 27, 2014. It proposes to rescind the condition requiring vessels with a Gulf charter/headboat permit for reef fish to comply with federal recreational reef fish regulations, if more restrictive than state regulations, when fishing for reef fish in state waters. A similar condition for vessels with commercial reef fish permits will remain in place. For dual-permitted vessels (both a commercial and charter/headboat permit), the condition will apply when the vessel is operating as a commercial vessel but not when operating as a charter vessel or headboat. The framework action is currently under review by NMFS.

Framework Action to require electronic reporting for headboats

This amendment modifies the frequency of headboat reporting to be on a weekly basis (or intervals shorter than a week if notified by the SRD) via electronic reporting, and will be due by 11:59 p.m., local time, the Sunday following a reporting week. If no fishing activity occurs during a reporting week, an electronic report so stating must be submitted for that week.

Framework Action to Establish 2013 Red Snapper Quotas and Supplemental Recreational Red Snapper Season

Framework Action Addressing Vermillion Snapper, Yellowtail Snapper, and Venting Tool Requirements

This framework action establishes a 10-vermilion snapper recreational bag limit within the 20-reef fiish aggregate, increases the Gulf yellowtail snapper Annual Catch Limit from 725,000 lb round weight to 901,125 lb round weight, and removes the requirement to have onboard and use venting tools when releaseing reef fish. It is effective September 3, 2013.

Red Snapper IFQ 5-Year Review

Framework Action to Set the 2013 Red Snapper Commercial and Recreational Quotas and Modify the Recreational Bag Limit

This Framework Action increases the 2013 quotas for commercial and recreational harvest of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and sets the timing for a supplemental recreational fishing season for red snapper.

Framework Action to Set the 2013 Red Snapper Commercial and Recreational Quotas and Modify the Recreational Bag Limit

This framework action increases the red snapper quotas from 4.121 mp commercial and 3.959 mp recreational to: Commercial Quota Recreational Quota 4.315 mp 4.145 mp. The framework action also retains the 2-fish per angler bag limit. This action is projected to result in a 27-day recreational season, beginning June 1, provided that Texas maintains its existing state regulations and the remaining Gulf States adopt consistent regulations.

Framework Action to Set the 2013 Gag Recreational Fishing Season & Modify the February-March Shallow-Water Grouper Closed Season

This amendment establishes a 2013 gag recreational fishing season and to elimates theFebruary 1 through March 31 shallow-water grouper closure shoreward of 20 fathoms.

Reef Fish Amendment 38

Amendment 38 was implemented March 1, 2013 and revises the post-season recreational accountability measure that reduces the length of the recreational season for all shallow-water grouper in the year following a year in which the annual catch limit (ACL) for gag or red grouper is exceeded. The modified accountability measure reduces the recreational season of only the species for which the ACL was exceeded.

Additionally, the reef fish framework procedure was modified to include the addition of accountability measures to the list of items that can be changed through the standard framework procedure. This allows for faster implementation of measures designed to maintain harvest at or below the ACL. General language was added to the framework to accommodate future changes in naming of the Councilís advisory committees and panels.

Reef Fish Amendment 37

The purpose of this amendment is to modify the gray triggerfish rebuilding plan based on new information from the 2011 Update Assessment, which determined that the stock was not rebuilding on target. This amendment would reduce the commercial and recreational annual catch targets to 60,900 and 217,100 pounds whole weight, respectively. To meet the necessary reductions, a fixed closed season from June 1 through July 31 would be established for the commercial and recreational sectors. In addition, this amendment would implement a commercial trip limit of 12 gray triggerfish, establish a recreational bag limit of 2-gray triggerfish per angler bag limit within the 20 reef fish aggregate, and modify the recreational accountability measures.

Red Grouper Regulatory Amendment

This August 2011 Red Grouper Regulatory Amendment increases the 2011 total allowable catch to 6.88 million pounds and allows the total allowable catch to increase from 2012 to 2015. The increases in TAC are contingent upon the TAC not being exceeded in previous years. If TAC is exceeded in a given year, it will remain at that yearís level until the effects of the overage are evaluated by the Scientific and Statistical Committee. The amendment also increases the red grouper bag limit to 4 fish per person.

Red Snapper Regulatory Amendment

This regulatory amendment sets the 2012 and 2013 quotas for commercial and recreational red snapper harvest. The quotas can be increased because recent population assessments show that overfishing has ended.

The red snapper allowable catch would be increased from 7.185 million pounds whole weight in 2011 to the following:

2012 2013
Overall Quota 8.080 8.690
Commercial Allocation (51%) 4.121 4.432
Recreational Allocation (49%) 3.959 4.258

If the 2012 overall quota is exceeded, the 2013 quota increase would require further scientific review and potential modification by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

The regulatory amendment also eliminates the fixed recreational red snapper closed season of October 1 - December 31. By eliminating the closure date, NOAA Fisheries Service can re-open the recreational harvest for red snapper if any remaining quota is available, without the delay of additional rulemaking.

Reef Fish Amendment 35

A 2009 greater amberjack stock assessment update shows that the stock remains overfished and continues to experience overfishing. This amendment sets the Annual Catch Limit at 1,780,000 pounds whole weight and establishes an Annual Catch Target of 1,539,000 pounds whole weight. The amendment also establishes a 2,000-pound commercial trip limit. Amendment 35 was implemented December 13, 2012.

Reef Fish Amendment 34

Amendment 34 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan was approved by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in February 2012, and implemented November 19, 2012. The amendment addresses crew size limits for dually permitted vessels. Dually permitted vessels are vessels with both a charter for-hire permit and a commercial reef fish permit. The amendment eliminates the earned income qualification requirement for the renewal of commercial reef fish permits and increases the maximum crew size from three to four.

Reef Fish Amendment 32

Amendment 32 establishes annual catch limits and annual catch targets for 2012 to 2015 for gag and for 2012 for red grouper. The amendment also:

  • establishes a rebuilding plan for gag
  • sets recreational bag limits, size limits and closed seasons for gag/red grouper in 2012
  • contains a commercial gag and shallow-water grouper quota adjustment to account for dead discards
  • makes adjustments to multi-use IFQ shares in the grouper individual fishing quota program
  • reduces the commercial gag size limit
  • modifies the offshore time and areas closures
  • revises gag, red grouper, and shallow-water grouper accountability measures

Amendment 32 became effective March 12, 2012.

A 2011 regulatory framework action for greater amberjack is intended to avoid in-season quota closures during peak economic fishing months, maximize social and economic benefits, and potentially provide biological benefits by protecting the stock during the peak spawning period. This regulatory framework action modifies the existing greater amberjack recreational fishing season, creating a June 1 - July 31 closed season. This closure coincides with the open recreational seasons for other managed reef fish species such as red snapper. By dividing the recreational greater amberjack season into two portions that bracket the red snapper season recreational anglers have the opportunity to fish for at least one of the targeted species year round (provided the recreational quota is not exceeded). This gives the for-hire and private recreational sectors the opportunity for a greater number of fishing days for highly targeted or prized reef fish species, potentially improving the social and economic benefits.

A 2011 regulatory amendment for red snapper increases the red snapper total allowable catch from 6.945 million pounds (MP) to 7.185 MP. This increase is consistent with goals and objectives of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s red snapper rebuilding plan, and provides a substantial safety buffer by keeping the total allowable catch 25 percent below the overfishing limit (which is also the maximum rebuilding yield).  Based on the current 51% commercial and 49% recreational allocation of red snapper, the increase in total allowable catch will adjust the commercial and recreational quotas from 3.542 and 3.403 MP to 3.66 MP and 3.51 MP in 2011.  The commercial sector is under an individual fishing quota program and has maintained landings within their quota in recent years.  The projected recreational fishing season length will be announced before the season opens on June 1.

A 2010 regulatory amendment to the reef fish fishery management plan sets the red grouper total allowable catch at 5.68 MP GW for 2011. Based on the 76%:24% commercial and recreational allocation of red grouper, the commercial quota will be 4.32 MP GW and the recreational allocation will be 1.36 MP GW for 2011. The total allowable catch and commercial quota will remain at the 2011 levels until modified by a subsequent amendment or framework procedure.

The regulatory amendment also provides a more specific definition of buoy gear by limiting the number of hooks, limiting the terminal end weight, restricting materials used for the line, restricting the length of the drop line, and where the hooks may be attached. In addition, the Council requested that each buoy must display the official number of the vessel (USCG documentation number or state registration number) to assist law enforcement in monitoring the use of the gear, which requires rulemaking.

Reef Fish Amendment 31

Amendment 31 addresses sea turtle interactions with bottom longline fishing gear in the reef fish fishery of the Gulf of Mexico, received Council approval in August and was implemented May 26, 2010.

Management actions contained in the amendment include:

  • Longline endorsement requirement - Vessels must have average annual reef fish landings of 40,000 pounds gutted weight or more from 1999 through 2007;
  • Reef fish bottom longline fishing restricted to outside the 35-fathom depth contour from June - August;
  • Vessels are limited to 1000 hooks of which no more than 750 of which can be rigged for fishing or fished.

A 2010 regulatory amendment for red snapper increases the red snapper total allowable catch making the resulting recreational and commercial quotas consistent with goals and objectives of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's red snapper rebuilding plan. This regulatory amendment increases red snapper total allowable catch from 5.0 million pounds (MP) to 6.945 MP.

Reef Fish Amendment 30B

Amendment 30B addresses the overfishing of Gag grouper, and defines its maximum stock size threshold (MSST) and optimum yield (OY). The amendment also sets interim allocations of gag and red grouper catches between recreational and commercial fisheries, and makes adjustments to the red grouper total allowable catch (TAC) to reflect the current status of the stock, which is currently at OY levels. Additionally, the amendment establishes annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for the commercial and recreational red grouper fisheries, commercial and recreational gag fisheries, and commercial aggregate shallow-water fishery. 

For the commercial sector, the amendment for 2009 reduces the aggregate shallow-water grouper quota from 8.80 mp to 7.8 mp, increases the red grouper quota from 5.31 mp to 5.75 mp, and sets a gag quota of 1.32 mp.  The gag and shallow-water grouper quotas are scheduled to increase in subsequent years as the gag stock rebuilds.  When 80 percent of a grouper species quota is reached, the allowable catch per trip for that species will be reduced to an incidental catch limit of 200 pounds until the species quota is filled in order to reduce discard mortality of that species while fishermen target other species.

The amendment repeals the commercial closed season of February 15 to March 15 on gag, black and red grouper, and replaces it with a January through April seasonal area closure to all fishing at the Edges 40 fathom contour, a 390 nautical square mile gag spawning region northwest of Steamboat Lumps.  In addition, the Steamboat Lumps and Madison-Swanson fishing area restrictions will be continued indefinitely.

For the recreational sector, the amendment reduces the aggregate grouper bag limit from five fish to four, increases the red grouper bag limit from one fish to two, and sets a two-fish bag limit for gag. A recreational closed season on shallow-water grouper was established from February 1 through March 31.

Finally, the amendment requires that all vessels with federal commercial or charter reef fish permits must comply with the more restrictive of state or federal reef fish regulations when fishing in state waters.

Amendment 30B was implemented May 18, 2009. On July 24, 2009, a correction was implemented to resolve an error contained in the rule that would have implemented a longer season closure that was not intended and was not supported by Amendment 30B.

Reef Fish Amendment 30A

Implemented August, 2008, Amendment 30A addresses the overfishing and overfished status of Gray Triggerfish and Greater Amberjack. 

The amendment proposes to reduce the harvest of both greater amberjack and gray triggerfish in order to end overfishing and rebuild the stocks. The amendment also proposes to adjust the allocation of gray triggerfish and greater amberjack catches between recreational and commercial fisheries and set management thresholds and targets to comply with the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) for gray triggerfish.

Reef Fish Amendment 29

Amendment 29 was approved by the Council in January, 2009 and established an individual fishing quota (IFQ) system for the commercial grouper and tilefish fishery, which began January 1, 2010.