Comment period ends August 29, 2013
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would increase the commercial and recreational quotas for Gulf of Mexico red snapper and potentially re-open the recreational season for 2013. The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 14, 2013.
The rule would increase the total allowable catch for harvest of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico from 8.46 million pounds (mp) to 11.0 mp. The commercial quota would be 5.61 mp and the recreational quota would be 5.39 mp. The quotas can be increased because a recent stock assessment for red snapper showed the stock can support higher catches.
The red snapper commercial sector is managed with an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. The increase of 1.295 mp to the commercial quota would be distributed to IFQ shareholders on or shortly after the effective date of the final rule.
The 1.245 mp increase to the recreational quota could allow a supplemental red snapper recreational fishing season, if unused quota is available. The supplemental season would open October 1, 2013, and preliminary projections show fishing could be supported for 21 days, but only if landings did not exceed the previous quota during the June season. The final projections will be received in mid-August. If quota is available, the official dates of the supplemental season will be announced in the final rule for this action.
For more information please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions on the NOAA Fisheries Web site.
Request for Comments
The comment period on this proposed rule will open on August 14, 2013. NOAA Fisheries must receive comments no later than August 29, 2013. We will address all comments specifically directed to the framework action or the proposed rule in the final rule. You may obtain electronic copies of the proposed rule and the framework action from the NOAA Fisheries Web site or the e-Rule Making Portal www.regulations.gov.
How to Submit Comments
You may submit comments on this document, identified by "NOAA-NMFS-2013-0115", by one of the following methods:
All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible.
About Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional Fishery Management Councils established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council prepares fishery management plans, which are designed to manage fishery resources within the 200-mile limit of the Gulf of Mexico.
August --, 2013
Ms. Susan Gerhart,
Southeast Regional Office, NMFS
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
Dear Ms. Gerhart:
I am taking this opportunity to offer the support of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) for the proposed rule that would re-open the recreational red snapper season beginning in October. We understand that the season length may extend for 21 days and believe that allowing this opportunity for accessing this rapidly expanding resource to Gulf of Mexico anglers should be a first step towards affirming the economic and social potential of recreational fishing in the federal waters of the Gulf.
Understanding that the rule would also increase the 2013 TAC from 8.46 to 11 million pounds we concur with the increase, but take the position that the increases allowed in commercial harvest manifested by this change are effective for this single year and do not represent an action that affects the Gulf Council's current deliberation over changes in red snapper allocation. CCA firmly believes that a major re-allocation of harvest privileges between the commercial and recreational sectors will be the only action that will allow this red snapper resource to generate its full potential economic benefits to this nation.
We urge the NMFS to firmly establish the duration of the October season as rapidly as possible so as to allow the angling public to prepare for the season in advance.
Thank you for this opportunity to express our views on this important issue.
Chester Brewer, Chairman
CCA National Government Relations Committee
Our Association sometimes finds itself in the middle of an issue on which we have many members on both sides. That is case with one of the new regulations the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission proposed at its June, 2013 meeting relating to tarpon fishing, which applies particularly during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. We want our members to be informed and understand how and why CCA Florida formulates its positions on these issues.
Differing methods of fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass have engendered impassioned feelings and emotions for decades now. Over 10 years ago, the FWCC commissioned a study to see if there was a difference in release mortality between tarpon caught in the old, traditional method – using live bait – and those caught using jigs. That study, which was peer reviewed, concluded that there is no significant difference in release mortality between the 2 methods. On the basis of that study – which remains the only such study of which we are aware – CCA Florida adopted the position that no additional regulations governing methods of fishing for tarpon were warranted.
That study has now been discredited to some degree – completely so in the view of some. If one assumes that the study was flawed, that does not mean that the opposite conclusion is now true – it means that we are back to having no study that establishes anything. Nonetheless, the FWCC has decided to propose some new rules for tarpon fishing. CCA Florida supported the new rule making tarpon a catch and release fishery, and we are in complete support of the proposed rule prohibiting the snagging of tarpon (although our position is that only the intentional snagging of tarpon should be prohibited as every angler unintentionally foul hooks/snags a fish at some point).
The last proposed rule would limit the use of bottom weighted jigs while fishing for tarpon, which is a popular method used during the spawn in Boca Grande Pass. CCA Florida’s Government Relations Committee – which is made up of 45 members from across our entire State – voted unanimously not to support this new rule – the entire rationale in doing so is that there simply is no scientific evidence demonstrating a need for the new rule. Insisting that the management of our fisheries be pursued using credible science has served us well, and the charged emotions involved in the Boca Grande tarpon fishery are no basis for us to change that approach.
Regarding Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 14, Action 2 - Modify the fishing year for the black sea bass recreational sector –
It goes without saying that in a year-round fishery the start date has little impact. However we will not likely see a year round fishery for black sea bass again and a uniform start date will inevitably disadvantage one area compared to another. We believe the Council should set the season length and perhaps a framework of time when the season can be open and allow the states to set their season to best suit their fisheries.
Regarding Action 3 of Amendment 14 - Modify the recreational accountability measure for black sea bass –
This is a common action in several Amendments, and our position on all of them is that the Council should adopt uniform Accountability Measures for recreational fisheries that have these three essential elements:
1. The season should be set based on when the ACT is projected to be met;
2. Should overages in the ACL occur, payback provisions should only be implemented if the stock is overfished; the entire ACL is exceeded; and if the recreational harvest is responsible for the ACL overage.
3. If the overage occurs in three consecutive years, paybacks in the following year should be implemented until the overages cease.
Regarding Action 4 and Action 5 of Amendment 14 -
We believe that when feasible, the commercial and recreational season should start at the same time.
Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 1 - Revise acceptable biological catches (ABCs), annual catch limits (ACLs), and annual catch targets (ACTs) for dolphin and wahoo -
We believe the use of MRIP in setting catch limits is the appropriate action and support Alternative 2.
Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 2 - Revise the accountability measures (AMs) for dolphin and wahoo –
We are concerned that the Accountability Measure for the commercial fishery is open-ended no matter which alternative is selected. As long as the fishery is not overfished and the total ACL is not exceeded, overages could occur annually which would be a de facto allocation shift. Similar to the language we suggest for recreational AMs, serial overages must be eliminated and paybacks initiated after 3 years.
Regarding Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5, Action 3 - Revise the framework procedure in the Dolphin Wahoo Fishery Management Plan –
We believe the ability to use a framework action to adjust catch limits is appropriate and support the adoption of the preferred alternatives 2 and 3.
In Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 5 Action 4 - Establish a commercial trip limit for dolphin in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South Atlantic Council’s area of jurisdiction -
CCA supported a 3,000-pound commercial trip limit in 2003 as a means to ensure a directed dolphin longline fishery did not develop. There were concerns of localized depletion by both private rec and for-hire captains. The Council adopted the trip limit but it was not allowed by NOAA Fisheries. Our concerns still remain. We believe a trip limit that would have little impact on the historic dolphin fishery but preventing a longline fishery from developing is still appropriate. We support the adoption of a 3,000-pound commercial trip limit for dolphin.
In Amendment 20 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics FMP - Establish Regional Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) for Atlantic Migratory Group King Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel –
In general, we believe allowing the states to set their own seasons, within a seasonal framework set by the Council, and where feasible have their own quota, is appropriate.
In Coastal Migratory Pelagics Framework, Action 1 - Modify restrictions on transfer-at-sea and gillnet allowances for Atlantic migratory group Spanish mackerel –
This provision is supposed to take care of the uncommon incidence where a Spanish mackerel gill net boat catches more than the daily trip limit and would allow that Captain to cut the net and transfer it to another federally permitted vessel, thus reducing dead discards.
This seems to be a clear “slippery slope” action that would be difficult at best to enforce. The Advisory Panel did not like it and we do not believe this action is appropriate. We believe it makes much more sense for the Council re-examine the use of gill nets as allowable gear in the Spanish mackerel fishery if this problem persists.
Amendments to the Fishery Management Plans for Snapper Grouper, Dolphin Wahoo, Coral, and Coastal Migratory Pelagics
All public hearings are scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 7
Thursday, August 8