The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet April 3-6, 2023 at the Courtyard Marriot in Gulfport, Mississippi. During this meeting the Council plans to take final action on a framework action to eliminate the weekend closure during the commercial king mackerel gillnet season.
Public testimony will be held on Wednesday, April 5th from 1:30 – 5:00 PM CDT. In-person attendees wishing to give public testimony must sign-up using the kiosk near the entrance to the meeting room.
A question and answer session will be held on Tuesday, April 4th at approximately 5:05 PM CDT. Participants will be able join the session in-person or listen online via webinar.
The following is a brief description of some of the issues that the Council plans to discuss:
Modifications to King Mackerel Gillnet Season
The Council plans to take final action on a Framework Amendment that considers eliminating the weekend closure for the commercial king mackerel gillnet season in the Southern Zone of the Gulf of Mexico. Originally, weekend closures were put in place to ensure that the gillnetters didn’t over harvest their quota over the weekend when federal offices were closed. However, the gillnet fishermen have worked closely with NOAA Fisheries to monitor landings and voluntarily stop fishing when the quota is close to being met. As a result, the Council is considering removing the weekend fishing restriction for the gillnet component of the commercial king mackerel fishery.
Update on the For-Hire Reporting Program
A recent court ruling set aside the regulations requiring federally permitted for-hire vessels to submit electronic fishing reports, make trip declarations, and have vessel monitoring systems permanently affixed and operating on vessels at all times. During this meeting, the Council plans to discuss the ruling and consider any potential next steps.
The most recent stock assessment (SEDAR 72, 2021), which included new recreational catch and effort data and an ecosystem-based red tide analysis, determined that gag grouper is overfished and experiencing overfishing. Additionally, the assessment identified that the proportion of males in the gag grouper population is less than 2%, which negatively impacts the stock’s ability to reproduce. The Council is obligated to end overfishing and develop a rebuilding plan for gag grouper, which will dramatically reduce catch limits during the rebuilding period. During this meeting, the Council will continue to work on a rebuilding plan that will consider revising several management measures including catch limits, sector allocations, and the recreational season structure. The Council plans to host a series of public hearings along the west coast of Florida in Destin, Cedar Key, Tampa, and Naples, along with virtual hearings before taking final action on this document during the June 2023 meeting.
Modifications to Commercial Reporting Requirements
The Council will continue to work on a joint amendment with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council that considers requiring commercial reef fish and coastal migratory pelagic permit holders to submit logbooks electronically, rather than mailing paper logbooks.
Red Snapper Catch Limit Recalibration
Private recreational red snapper seasons are monitored using the national marine recreational data collection program (MRIP) in concert with landings data collected from Gulf state data collection programs. The state-specific annual catch limits were set using calibration ratios developed by the
Gulf States and NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology and approved by the Council in 2020. During this meeting, the Counci
l begin work on a framework action to update the recreational red snapper data calibration ratios using the most recent years of data for Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Gray Snapper Catch Limits
The most recent Gray Snapper Stock Assessment (SEDAR 75, 2022), which incorporates new recreational landings data, shows that graysnapper is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. As a result, the Council will begin work on a document that considers increasing gray snapper catch limits.