The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet next week, from April 8-11 at The Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.


During this meeting, the Council plans to select the 2023 Law Enforcement Officer/Team of the Year. The Council will also make preliminary appointments to the Reef Fish, Shrimp, and Ad Hoc Snapper/Grouper-Tilefish Advisory Panels that will then be subject to a fishery violation background check before being appointed during the June 2024 Council meeting.


Here’s the full agenda, meeting materials, and webinar registration.


Public testimony will be held on Wednesday, April 10th 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.


  • Virtual participants must register online to provide testimony and join the Council meeting webinar. Online registration will open at 8:30 AM the day of, and we encourage you to register at least an hour before testimony begins. Please be sure to register to comment and login to the webinar using the same name so we can identify you and allow you to speak. If you have any difficulties, email [email protected].


The following is a quick description of some of the other issues that the Council will address:


Gag and Red Grouper Season Projections

Landings estimates from the 2023 fishing season for both gag and red grouper exceeded annual catch limits. This could result in shorter seasons for 2024.  During this meeting, the Council expects to hear an update from NOAA Fisheries on the 2024 recreational fishing seasons for both gag and red grouper.


  • Gag: In 2023, the allowable gag harvest was reduced by about 80% based on results of a recent stock assessment. The season opened on September 1 and closed on October 18 when the annual catch limit was projected to be met. Preliminary estimates showed that the gag annual catch limit was exceeded drastically. Additionally, gag is subject to a payback, which means overages of the annual catch limit are deducted from the following year’s annual catch limit. During its January 2024 meeting, NOAA Fisheries presented modified estimates of gag harvest, which were still wellabove the annual catch limit. The Council then requested that NOAA Fisheries further review the 2023 landings estimates.
  • Red Grouper: In 2023, the red grouper season was closed on July 20th when harvest wasprojectedto reach the annual catch limit. 2023 landings were estimated to exceed the annual catch limit. Overages to the red grouper annual catch limit do not need to be paid back; however, the 2024 red grouper season may need to close even earlier thanlast year to avoid overages. As with gag, the Council then requested that NOAA Fisheries further review the 2023landings estimates.



Spanish Mackerel


The Council will continue work on a framework amendment that considers updating catch limits for the Gulf migratory group of Spanish mackerel, based on the results of a recent stock assessment (SEDAR 81 2023) and recommendations from the Council’s SSC.  SEDAR 81 incorporated new recreational landings data using MRIP-FES, and determined that as of 2021, Spanish mackerel is not overfished or experiencing overfishing.  However, landings and catch-per-unit-effort have both decreased in recent years and commercial and recreational harvests have consistently been much lower than the annual catch limit.  As a result, new catch advice represents a 35% decrease in allowable harvest.


For-Hire Reporting

The Council will review an initial draft of the document that is being developed to create a new federal charter for-hire data collection program for the Gulf of Mexico. During this meeting, the Council will be given a presentation on how fisheries economic data are collected and used in management considerations. The Council is expected to consider next steps related to possible inclusion of economic data collection for the new data collection program.


Mid-Water Snapper Complex

The mid-water snapper complex is comprised of wenchman, silk snapper, blackfin snapper, and queen snapper, which are managed collectively with a single annual catch limit.  The Council will work on a document that considers removing wenchman from the complex and, potentially, from the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), and reconsidering catch limits and accountably measures for the remaining species in the complex.




Shallow-Water Grouper

The shallow-water grouper complex is comprised of scamp, yellowmouth grouper, black grouper, and yellowfin grouper, and is currently managed with a single annual catch limit. The Council will work on a document that considers modifying the structure and associated catch limits for the shallow-water grouper complex. Separate catch level recommendations have been made for scamp and yellowedge grouper, and the complex can no longer be managed under a single catch limit because it may result in overfishing.


Deep-Water Grouper

The deep-water grouper complex is comprised of warsaw grouper, snowy grouper, yellowedge grouper, and speckled hind, and is currently managed with a single annual catch limit. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee reviewed the SEDAR 85 stock assessm

ent on yellowedge grouper in February 2024, and made updated catch limit recommendations for that species and the other three species in the deep-water grouper complex.  The SSC also recommended keeping those four species in the complex together as a single management unit. The Council will consider modifying the annual catch limit based on these recommendations, and considerate of the measures being proposed for shallow-water grouper.