Gulf Council FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What is the function of the Gulf Council?
  2. How are members of the Council chosen?
  3. What are the considerations involved in a fishery management plan?
  4. Who advises the Council on developing fishery management plans?
  5. What does a Fishery Management Plan do?
  6. Where may one review a proposed Fishery Management Plan for the Gulf of Mexico?
  7. May a fisherman on a vessel with a commercial Reef Fish permit retain the recreational bag limit of a reef fish species when the commercial season or quota is closed?
  8. May a recreational fisherman possess more than the daily bag limit if away from the dock for more than one day?
  9. May a commercial fisherman retain a bag limit of reef fish as well as the allowed commercial quantity (applies when there is a commercial trip limit, such as for red snapper or grouper)?
  10. May a recreational fisherman possess both a federal and state bag limit of reef fish?
  11. How does the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) process work?
  12. What is the intercouncil boundary between the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico?

1. What is the function of the Gulf Council?

The Gulf Council is responsible for developing and monitoring fishery management plans to provide for the best use of the fishery resources in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Council meets five times a year, rotating its meeting locations from Key West, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas. All meetings are open to the public and public participation is encouraged by the Council.

2. How are members of the Council chosen?

The Gulf Council is made up of representatives of all groups who use the Gulf of Mexico’s fishery resources. Voting members include recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, seafood processors, environmentalists, scientists, consumers, and representatives of each state conservation agency. Members are nominated by the state governors and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce for a term of three years. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is also represented, along with non-voting government representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Services, Department of State, and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.

3. What are the considerations involved in a fishery management plan?

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act provides a guideline of National Standards to which the plans must conform. These National Standards for fishery conservation and management provide that all plans must:

  1. Prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield.
  2. Be based on the best available scientific data.
  3. Manage individual stocks as a unit.
  4. Not discriminate between residents of different states.
  5. Promote efficiency in resource utilization.
  6. Take into account and allow for variations among fisheries.
  7. Minimize cost and avoid duplication.
  8. Provide for rebuilding overfished stocks, taking into account the impact on fishing communities.
  9. Minimize bycatch and the mortality of such bycatch.
  10. Promote the safety of human life at sea, to the extent practicable.

4. Who advises the Council on developing fishery management plans?

For each management plan there is an Advisory Panel (AP) made up of users of fishery resources. Advisory Panels include recreational and commercial fishermen, buyers, sellers, and consumers. There is also a Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) made up of scientists who are experts in technical aspects of these fish or resources. In addition, the Council has access to scientific data and advice from state and federal scientific research findings. After a draft fishery management plan or amendment has been prepared, it is presented at public hearings throughout the Gulf Coast for additional public input.

5. What does a Fishery Management Plan do?

A Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Plan provides the basis for management of a fishery resource in the Gulf of Mexico’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The EEZ begins at the outer limit of state jurisdiction and extends 200 miles from shore. A plan or amendment to a plan regulates the amount of fish that are harvested in order to maintain the best interest of the people of the United States. The proposed management measures become federal regulations when implemented by the Secretary of Commerce. The plan is enforced by  the U.S. Coast Guard, enforcement agents from the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Gulf states. Implemented plans and regulations are reviewed annually and may be updated or modified after  public review to accommodate changing conditions and needs.

6. Where may one review a proposed Fishery Management Plan for the Gulf of Mexico?

Proposed fishery management plans and amendments may be reviewed in the offices of marine extension agents and coastal offices of the state conservation agencies, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Gulf Council headquarters in Tampa. Copies of proposed plans and amendments are available for distribution from the Council headquarters.

7. May a fisherman on a vessel with a commercial Reef Fish permit retain the recreational bag limit of a reef fish species when the commercial season or quota is closed?

No, if commercial quantities of any Gulf reef fish are onboard.

Otherwise, yes, except during recreational closures. For example, when the recreational red snapper season is closed.

8. May a recreational fisherman possess more than the daily bag limit if away from the dock for more than one day?

The one-day bag limit applies regardless of trip duration. However, a two-day bag limit is permitted on qualified charter or headboats with two captains for trips in excess of 24 hours. Recreational bag limits apply on a daily basis regardless of how many trips occurred that day.

9. May a commercial fisherman retain a bag limit of reef fish as well as the allowed commercial quantity (applies when there is a commercial trip limit such as for red snapper or grouper)?

No. Also applies to size limits such as possessing undersized fish.

10. May a recreational fisherman possess both a federal and state bag limit of reef fish?

No. This applies to all fish and shellfish.

11. How does the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) process work?

The steps involved in FMP development are as follows:

  1. The Scoping Process - Once the Council identifies fisheries that should be managed, has coordinated input on those species, as well as proposed management measures from scientists and the public, a scoping document is developed. The scoping document outlines the problem to be solved, presents possible management goals and measures, and is published in the Federal Register for discussion at public hearings and Council meetings.
  2. The Draft FMP - Council staff works with the Council, the various advisory committees, and NMFS staff to draft the FMP and amendments. Each Council must follow ten National Standards for drafting conservation and management measures:
  1. prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield,
  2. base recommendations on the best scientific information available,
  3. manage each stock (and interrelated stocks) as a unit throughout its range,
  4. refrain from discriminating between residents of States and ensure that all allocations are fair and equitable,
  5. promote efficiency in the utilization of fishery resources (but economic allocation cannot be the sole purpose),
  6. take into account variations in and contingencies among fisheries,
  7. minimize costs and avoid unnecessary duplication,
  8. take into account the importance of fishery resources and economic impacts to fishing communities,
  9. minimize bycatch and the mortality of bycatch, and
  10. promote the safety of human life at sea.

The Secretary of Commerce issues advisory guidelines based on the same National Standards to assist in the development of FMPs. NMFS relies on the National Standard guidelines when reviewing and considering for approval Council management recommendations.

  1. The Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Phase - In the EA or EIS phases of each draft FMP, the Council examines different management options, conducts public hearings and solicits public comment, and settles on a "preferred alternative." At the end of the comment period, the Council reviews public comments and either approves the FMP, or starts over again with a new suite of options or another set of hearings. NMFS provides scientific advice and reviews the plans to make sure they meet legal requirements.
  2. Submission of the Draft FMP to the Secretary of Commerce - Draft FMPs passing the EA and EIS Phase are submitted to the Secretary of Commerce. The documents then go through another process for soliciting public input. Proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register with an opportunity for additional public comment. The Secretary of Commerce then considers the final decision and chooses whether to approve, disapprove, partially approve, or partially disapprove the proposals. If FMPs are approved, the final regulations are published in the Federal Register. NMFS implements the regulations and the U.S. Coast Guard provides enforcement authority.

A flow chart depicting the FMP process can be found here.

12. What is the intercouncil boundary between the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico?

§ 600.105 Intercouncil boundaries.

(a) New England and Mid-Atlantic Councils. The boundary begins at the intersection point of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York at 41°18'16.249" N. lat. and 71°54'28.477" W. long. and proceeds south 37°22'32.75" East to the point of intersection with the outward boundary of the EEZ as specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

(b) Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Councils. The boundary begins at the seaward boundary between the States of Virginia and North Carolina (36°31'00.8" N. lat.), and proceeds due east to the point of intersection with the outward boundary of the EEZ as specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

(c) South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Councils. The boundary coincides with the line of demarcation between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, which begins at the intersection of the outer boundary of the EEZ, as specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and 83°00' W. long., proceeds northward along that meridian to 24°35' N. lat., (near the Dry Tortugas Islands), thence eastward along that parallel, through Rebecca Shoal and the Quicksand Shoal, to the Marquesas Keys, and then through the Florida Keys to the mainland at the eastern end of Florida Bay, the line so running that the narrow waters within the Dry Tortugas Islands, the Marquesas Keys and the Florida Keys, and between the Florida Keys and the mainland, are within the Gulf of Mexico.

[61 FR 32540, June 24, 1996, as amended at 63 FR 7075, Feb. 12, 1998]