The following notice from NOAA Fisheries is provided to our subscribers as a courtesy:
FB19-026
FISHERY BULLETIN ISSUE DATE: May17, 2019

CONTACT: Peter Hood, 727-824-5305, Peter.Hood@noaa.gov

KEY MESSAGE:

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council requested 2019 commercial and recreational annual catch limits be reduced to a level equal to the combined 2017 commercial and recreational landings based on information indicating the red grouper population is not large enough to sustain current harvest levels.

WHEN RULE WILL TAKE EFFECT:

The reduction to the annual catch limits will be effective May 17, 2019.

WHAT THIS MEANS:

  • This temporary rule reduces the current annual catch limits (ACL) and annual catch targets (ACT) by approximately 60 percent.
  • The rule reduces the 2019 commercial and recreational ACLs and ACTs from the 2018 levels. See the table below for ACLs and ACTs/quota in millions of pounds gutted weight for the commercial (Comm) and recreational (Rec) sectors.
 Year  Commercial ACL  Commercial ACT/Quota  Recreational ACL  Recreational ACT
 2018 8.19 7.78 2.58 2.37
2019 3.16 3.00 1.00 0.92
  • There are no changes to current bag limits, size limits, or fishing seasons.
  • The red grouper commercial quota used to distribute 2019 individual fishing quota allocations was based on the reduced quota, so individual fishing quota fishermen will see no change in their 2019 allocation. See Frequently Asked Questions below.
  • NOAA Fisheries, in coordination with the Gulf Council, is working on regulations to continue these reductions past 2019.
 
DEFINITIONS:

Annual Catch Limit: is the amount of fish that can be harvested from the population each year.

Annual Catch Target: is a level of catch reduced from the annual catch limit to account for management uncertainty.

FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 84 FR 22389, published May 17, 2019

This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

WHY DID THE COUNCIL REQUEST THE QUOTA REDUCTION? 
  • An interim analysis conducted by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and reviewed by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee suggested a harvest reduction was needed.
  • In 2017, Gulf of Mexico 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.
  • Additionally, an extensive outbreak of red tide off the Florida west coast in 2018 may have adversely affected the red grouper population.

WHY WAS 2019 COMMERCIAL RED GROUPER ALLOCATION WITHHELD ?

  • The 2018 red grouper commercial quota was 7.78 million pounds gutted weight.
  • NOAA Fisheries withheld the distribution of 59.4 percent of red grouper commercial quota through the individual fishing quota (IFQ) program on January 1, 2019.
  • If NOAA Fisheries had not withheld that portion of the commercial quota, then the entire 7.78 million pounds would have been allocated to IFQ fishermen and that allocation could not be taken back once the commercial catch limit reduction requested by the Council is finalized.

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS TEMPORARY RULE?

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

The Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Temporary Rule to Reduce Red Grouper Catch Levels may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Web site at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/emergency-rule-modify-gulf-mexico-red-grouper-annual-catch-limit.