The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet by webinar October 26-29, 2020. The Committee and Council Agendas, and meeting material are available on the Council Meeting Webpage.You will be able to join the webinar at this link during the meeting. 

Public testimony will be held on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 from 1:00 – 3:30 PM EDT. Details on how to successfully join the meeting and provide testimony can be found here.

Additionally, the Gulf Council and NOAA Fisheries will host a question and answer session with the public beginning at 4:30 PM, EDT on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Details on how to join that session can be found here

The following is a brief summary of what till be discussed during the meeting:

Recommendations on Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth
The President of the United States recently signed an Executive Order on Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth. The Executive Order aims to improve the competitiveness of our domestic seafood industry, put more Americans to work, and place more sustainably sourced and safe-to-eat seafood products on our families’ tables. Section 4 of the Executive Order, Removing Barriers to American Fishing, requires the Regional Fishery Management Councils to submit a prioritized list of recommended actions to reduce burdens on domestic fishing and to increase production within sustainable fisheries. The Council will is expected finalize a prioritized list of regulations for removal.

State Recreational Red Snapper Catch Limits
The Council recently delegated some management authority to the Gulf states to set the private angling red snapper fishing season, bag limit, and minimum size limit. NOAA Fisheries has been using the federal Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) in concert with landings and effort data collected from Gulf state data collection programs to monitor private recreational red snapper seasons. The Council will take its first look at a draft document that considers adjusting the individual state red snapper catch limits to account for the harvest monitoring programs used by each state. 

Red Grouper Catch Limits and Sector Allocations
The Council will continue working on Reef Fish Amendment 53 which considers modifying red grouper commercial and recreational sector allocations and catch limits based on the results of the latest stock assessment (SEDAR 61).  The assessment showed that the red grouper stock is lower than it has ever been.  Additionally, the assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program’s (MRIP) calibrated Fishing Effort Survey landings and effort estimates, which increased the estimates of recreational harvest.

Lane Snapper
The most recent update assessment of lane snapper uses the new calibrated landings and effort data from the Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey and allows for a significant increase in the acceptable biological catch level.  The Council will continue to work on a document to revise the lane snapper annual catch limits.

Gray Triggerfish
The Council will be presented will a summary of an interim analysis of the gray triggerfish stock that uses video surveys to estimate abundance. The analysis shows that the triggerfish stock has been increasing, especially in the eastern Gulf, and that catch limits can be increased. The Councils Scientific and Statistical Committee recommended increasing the gray triggerfish acceptable biological catch limit to 456,900 pounds. The current gray triggerfish annual catch limit is 305,300 pounds so, the Council will consider initiating work on a document to adjust the catch limit to reflect the increase. 

Commercial Individual Fishing Quota Programs
At this meeting, the Council will continue to review a public hearing draft of amendment 36B which considers requiring individual fishing quota shareholder accounts to be associated with a commercial reef fish permit.

King Mackerel
The Council will be presented with results of an update stock assessment for king mackerel. The update assessment determined that king mackerel is not overfished and is not experiencing overfishing. It also suggests maintaining current catch levels because the king mackerel stock seems to be responding well to current management practices. The Council will also hear a summary of public input on the health of the stock that it received through its Something’s Fishy with King Mackerel tool. The Council will review overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch recommendations from its Scientific and Statistical Committee and may consider initiating a document to adjust current king mackerel annual catch levels. 

The Council recently reviewed results of and update stock assessment for Cobia. The assessment showed that cobia is not overfished but is currently experiencing overfishing. The assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program’s recreational landings and effort estimates which increased the estimates of recreational harvest and consequently, increased the estimate of total biomass. The Councils Scientific and Statistical Committee provided overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch recommendations for 2021-2023 and beyond.  As a result, the assessment projections appear to allow for increased harvest but actually represent an approximate 30% reduction from the current allowable harvest. The Council is obligated to end overfishing and consider updating cobia annual catch limits. The Council will take a first look at an amendment that considers modifying cobia catch limits and management measures including bag limits, vessel limits, and size limits.