It’s me again… nagging you to submit some public comment before the next Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting. I want to give you heads up and let you know that there are a couple of issues that the Council plans to take final action on at the end of October. If you have any opinions about and in season closure for greater amberjack or the number of red snapper that can be harvested in 2011 and 2012 please read about what’s happening below. I strongly suggest that you submit some public comment about what you’re thinking and why you feel that way. Instructions on how to submit your thoughts can be found below.
Council is scheduled to finalize its preferred alternative to close the recreational greater amberjack season June 1 - July 31st beginning in 2011.
In 2008, Reef Fish Amendment 30A established a recreational quota of 1,368,000 pounds whole weight for greater amberjack. This quota was developed because greater amberjack has been considered to be overfished and undergoing overfishing since 2003. The stock is managed under a rebuilding plan that aims to allow greater amberjack to rebuild to a healthy population size by 2012.
In 2009, the greater amberjack recreational season was closed on October 24th . This early seasonal closure was made as an attempt to avoid going over quota and triggering additional accountability measures. Despite this closure, the quota was exceeded by 124,817 pounds whole weight. The accountability measures that followed deducted the 2009 overage from the 2010 quota, which reduced the estimated length of the 2010 greater amberjack season. Current projections estimate that the 2011 quota will be reached by late August (if there is no overage in 2010.) Council has been considering alternatives to the trend of early seasonal closures.
Alternative 1- No action- do not establish a recreational seasonal closure. (Close season when the amberjack quota is met.)
Alternative 2- Closed season March 1 – May 31.
Alternative 3- Closed season May 1- June 30.
Alternative 4- Closed season June 1- July 31.
Currently, Council has selected alternative 4 as its preferred alternative. Closing the greater amberjack season from June 1 to July 31 would allow anglers to target a trophy species year round. Recreational shallow-water grouper season is closed in February and March each year, and red snapper season does not open until June 1. Scheduling the greater amberjack closure for the months of June and July should allow fishermen to have at least one “trophy” species to target year round. The Council is scheduled to take final action at its October meeting, and I suggest you submit public comment in either written form or in person. Directions on how to submit your thoughts can be found below.
Council is scheduled to finalize its preferred alternative to increase the red snapper total allowable catch for 2011 contingent upon the 2010 total allowable catch not being exceeded.
A recent red snapper update assessment indicated that, although it is still considered overfished, the red snapper stock is no longer undergoing overfishing. This means that that the total allowable catch can be increased without compromising the plan to rebuild the red snapper stock to a healthy size.
In 2010 the total allowable catch limit for red snapper was set at 6,945,000 pounds. A regulatory amendment is required to increase the total allowable catch for subsequent years. The Council is considering a few alternatives for the near future of the red snapper total allowable catch. Please note that for alternatives 2 and 3 the total allowable catch increases are contingent upon the previous years total allowable catch not being exceeded. If the previous years limit is exceeded, the following years total allowable catch will not increase as scheduled.
Alternative 1- No Action- total allowable catch will remain at the levels set in 2010. This would allow a total of 6,945,000 pounds to be harvested (3,542,000 lbs for the commercial sector and 3,403,000 for the recreational sector.)
Alternative 2- Increase the 2011 total allowable catch to 7,185,000 pounds, resulting in a 3,664,000-pound quota for the commercial sector and a 3,521,000 pound quota for the recreational sector
Alternative 3- Increase the total allowable catch for 2011 and 2012. 2011 increase would be the same as above, and the 2012 total allowable catch would be set at 7,485,000 pounds. This would establish a 3,817,000-pound quota for the commercial sector and a 3,668,000-pound quota for the recreational sector in 2012.
The council has selected alternative 2 as its preferred alternative regarding the red snapper total allowable catch. Choosing this alternative does not inhibit an increase for 2012, it will require another regulatory amendment be written and voted upon in 2011 to increase the total allowable catch in 2012. Again, I suggest you submit public comment in either written form, or in person at the October Council meeting
If you care to comment in person the Council is scheduled to meet at the Embassy Suites at 4919 Constitution Ave in Baton Rouge, LA October 25, 2010 through October 29, 2010. Public comment will be taken beginning at 2:30pm on October 28, 2010.
Fisheries Outreach Specialist
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council