FB18-087
FISHERY BULLETIN ISSUE DATE: December 17, 2018
CONTACT: Peter Hood, peter.hood@noaa.gov (727) 824-5305

KEY MESSAGE:

  • NOAA Fisheries will withhold distribution of 59.4 percent of red grouper IFQ commercial allocation on January 1, 2019, the percentage of an intended commercial annual catch limit reduction requested by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council).
  • The Council requested commercial and recreational annual catch limits be reduced to a level equal to the combined 2017 commercial and recreational landings because of information indicating the red grouper population may be in trouble.
  • The red grouper commercial annual catch target is equivalent to the red grouper commercial quota. NOAA Fisheries is currently developing a temporary rule to make the needed reductions; however, the rulemaking will not be completed until sometime later in 2019, after the initial IFQ allocation is made to IFQ shareholders.
  • This retention of the red grouper commercial quota is effective January 1, 2019.

WHAT THIS MEANS:

  • The current red grouper commercial quota is 7.78 million pounds gutted weight.
  • The reduction the Council requested resulted in a commercial quota of 3 million pounds gutted weight, or a 59.4 percent reduction.
  • Red grouper allocation of 4.78 million pounds gutted weight will be withheld January 1, 2019, in anticipation of the proposed quota reduction.
  • If the proposed quota reduction does not occur prior to June 1, 2019, then NOAA Fisheries will distribute the withheld quota back to IFQ shareholders in accordance with the regulations.

WHY DID THE COUNCIL REQUEST THE QUOTA REDUCTION?

  • In 2017, Gulf red grouper landings were the lowest they had been in recent years.
  • Public testimony from Gulf fishermen indicated they observed fewer legal-sized red grouper, suggesting a declining stock.
  • An extensive outbreak of red tide off the Florida west coast in 2018 may adversely affect the red grouper stock.
  • An interim analysis conducted by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and reviewed by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee suggested a harvest reduction.

WILL I BE ABLE TO COMMENT ON THE PROPOSED REDUCTION IN HARVEST?

  • Yes, NOAA Fisheries will be publishing a proposed rule for reductions in the commercial and recreational annual catch limits and annual catch targets.
  • The public will be able to comment on the proposed rule after it publishes.
  • Comments on the proposed rule will be used in making a determination on the final rule.

More Information:
If you have further questions regarding this matter, please contact the SERO Sustainable Fisheries Office at the above address or by telephone at (727) 824-5305, weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.