Reef Fish Management Plans

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Reef Fish Management Plan Archives 

Reef Fish Amendment 28-Red Snapper Allocation

This amendment revises the commercial and recreational allocation for red snapper so that 48.5% of the total annual catch limit is allocated to the commercial sector and 51.5% of the total annual catch limit is allocated to the recreational sector. The increase for the recreational sector is the amount attributable to the recalibration of Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) catch estimates between 2015 and 2017. This allocation will remain in place until changed by the Council.

  • Watch the video presentation here!
  • Read online comments here!
  • Read other comments (8/14-8/15) here!
  • Read other comments here!
  • Read older comments here!
  • Minority Report

    Framework Action to Modify Gag Catch Limits

    This amendment revises the gag recreational closed season to January 1 to May 31, annually. This revised closed season is expected to reduce the amount of dead discards of gag that occur during the Gulf's recreational season for red snapper that begins on June 1, annually, and to extend the gag recreational fishing season beyond the current December closure date to provide the opportunity for the recreational sector to harvest the recreational ACL. The amendment also increases the recreational minimum size limit in Gulf Federal waters for both species to 24 inches TL to be consistent with the Federal waters of the South Atlantic and state waters off Monroe County, Florida. The Council decided that the benefits of having a size limit for these species that is consistent with both the South Atlantic and the state size limits for the waters off Monroe County, Florida, will outweigh any impacts of increased discard rates for these species. Furthermore, gag are sometimes misidentified as black grouper and having the same recreational minimum size limit for gag and black grouper may assist the public in complying with the applicable regulations for gag and black grouper. Additionally, increasing the recreational minimum size limit for these species is expected to provide the opportunity for more gag and black grouper to become sexually mature and spawn.

    Framework Action to Withhold a Portion of the 2016 Red Snapper Commercial Quota

    This framework action will withhold 4.9 percent (352,000 pounds) of the 2016 red snapper commercial quota in the Gulf of Mexico to cover the increase in allocation to the recreational sector through Reef Fish Amendment 28. If approved, Amendment 28 would reallocate red snapper harvest between the commercial and recreational sectors from 51/49 percent to 48.5/51.5 percent, respectively. The distribution of commercial individual fishing quota allocations occurs on January 1, 2016. The 352,000 pounds to be held back will result in a commercial quota of 6,768,000 pounds. If Amendment 28 is not approved, the 352,000 pounds withheld will be returned to the commercial individual fishing quota program and distributed to the shareholders.

    Greater Amberjack Framework Action - Allowable Harvest and Management Measures

    This Framework Action will:

    • Decrease the total annual catch limit from 1,780,000 pounds whole weight to 1,720,000 pounds whole weight
    • Set the commercial annual catch limit at 464,400 pounds whole weight and the commercial quota at 394,740 pounds whole weight
    • Set the recreational annual catch limit at 1,255,600 pounds whole weight and the recreational quota at 1,092,372 pounds whole weight
    • Reduce the commercial trip limit from 2,000 pounds whole weight to 1,500 pounds gutted weight
    • Increase the minimum recreational size limit from 30 inches fork length to 34 inches fork length

    This Framework Action becomes effective January 4, 2016.

    Framework Action to Adjust Red Snapper Quotas for 2015 and Beyond

    This action is pending approval by the Secretary of Commerce and would set the commercial and recreational quotas and the recreational ACTs for the 2015, 2016, and 2017 fishing years for red snapper based on the ABCs recommended by the SSC and on the current commercial and recreational allocations (51-percent commercial and 49-percent recreational). Quotas for subsequent fishing years would remain at 2017 levels unless changed by future rulemaking.

  • The quotas are as follows:
  • Year ABC Total Quota Comm Quota Rec Quota Rec ACT
    2015 14.30 mp 14.30 mp 7.293 mp 7.007 mp 5.605 mp
    2016 13.96 mp 13.96 mp 7.120 mp 6.840 mp 5.473 mp
    2017+ 13.74 mp 13.74 mp 7.007 mp 6.733 mp 5.386 mp
    • Watch the video presentation here!
    • Read online comments here!

    Reef Fish Amendment 40 - Sector Separation

    This amendment establishes a red snapper federal for-hire component that includes all for-hire operators with a valid or renewable federal reef fish for-hire permit, and a private angling component that includes all other for-hire operators and private recreational anglers. It also allocates the recreational red snapper quota and ACT based on 50% of the average percentages landed by each component between 1986 and 2013 (2010 excluded) and 50% of the average percentages landed by each component between 2006 and 2013 (2010 excluded). Finally, Amendment 40 establishes separate red snapper season closure provisions for the federal for-hire and private angling components.

  • Read the Amendment Guide here!
  • Watch the video presentation here!
  • Read new online comments here!
  • Read new other comments here!
  • Minority Report
  • (Note: Grouper/Red Snapper Allocation was separated from Sector Separation in November, 2012)

  • Read Public Comments on Sector Separation Amendment (before being combined with Allocations) here!
  • Read Online Public Comments on Sector Separation/Allocation Amendment (combined) here!
  • Framework Action - Categorical Exclusion - Charter/Headboat Decals

    The Council took no action on this framework action.

    Framework Action to Adjust Recreational For-Hire Red Snapper Management Measures

    Council took no action on this framework action.

    • Read the amendment here!
    • Watch the video presentation here!
    • Read online comments here!
    • Read other comments here!

    Framework Action to Establish Recreational Accountability Measures for Red Snapper

    This framework action adds two long-term recreational accountability measures for red snapper. The first accountability measure establishes a recreational annual catch target. The annual catch target is 20 percent less than the recreational quota. Projected recreational seasons will be based on the annual catch target rather than the quota. This measure is expected to reduce the probability of exceeding the quota in any given year from 50 percent to 15 percent.

    The second accountability measure is an overage adjustment that is only applied when the red snapper population is considered overfished (the population is too low). In the event the recreational quota is exceeded, the recreational quota will be reduced in the year following the overage by the amount of the overage. This quota reduction could be modified if the best scientific information available determines that a different amount is necessary. Under this measure, the recreational annual catch target would be set at 20 percent below the adjusted quota.

    The final rule will be effective April 20, 2015.

    • Watch the public hearing video presentation here!
    • Read comments submitted here!

    Framework Action to Modify the Red Grouper Bag Limit and Closed Season

    This action proposes a reduction in the recreational red grouper bag limit to 2 fish per day within the 4-fish aggregate grouper bag limit. It also proposes to eliminate the accountability measure that automatically reduced the red grouper bag limit in the subsequent season if the recreational quota is exceeded in the current season. The fixed closed season of February 1 through March 31 in waters beyond the 20-fathom contour (which applies to red, black, scamp, yellowfin, and yellowmouth grouper) remains in place.

    Note: the 3-fish red grouper bag limit that was implemented in April 2013 was the result of the automatic bag limit reduction accountability measure which is proposed to be repealed. That bag limit was a temporary measure that will expire on December 31. Consequently, on January 1, 2015, the red grouper bag limit in federal waters will temporarily revert to 4 fish until the proposed Framework Action is approved and implemented by NMFS.

    • Read the Public Hearing Guide here!
    • Watch the video presentation here!
    • Read comments here!

    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, but was then withdrawn in April, 2014. It proposed 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 would remain in place. For dual-permitted vessels (both a commercial and charter/headboat permit), the condition would apply when the vessel is operating as a commercial vessel but not when operating as a charter vessel or headboat. The framework was withdrawn.

    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 eliminates the February 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

    Amendment 37 was implemented May 9, 2013 for annual catch limits and annual catch targets, and June 10, 2013 for management measures, modified the gray triggerfish rebuilding plan based on a 2011 gray triggerfish update assessment, which determined that the stock was not rebuilding on target. This amendment reduced the commercial and recreational annual catch limits to 64,100 and 241,200 pounds whole weight respectively, and reduced 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 was established for the commercial and recreational sectors. In addition, this amendment established a commercial trip limit of 12 gray triggerfish, and a recreational bag limit of 2 gray triggerfish per angler bag limit within the 20 reef fish aggregate. The recreational accountability measures were modified by establishing an in-season closure authority based on the recreational annual catch target, and an overage adjustment to reduce the gray triggerfish annual catch limit and annual catch target by the amount of the overage. This overage adjustment applies only while gray triggerfish is overfished.

    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.

    Amendment 33

    This amendment considered the establishment of an IFQ program for additional reef fish species. A scoping document was prepared, but at the April 2012 Council meeting the Council voted to cease working on the document and requested that supporters of the proposed IFQ program contact the council to provide a rationale for why the program should go forward.

    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.