For Immediate Release
October 6, 2020
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met virtually from September 28-30, 2020. The Council reappointed three returning Council members for another 3-year term: Mr. Phil Dyskow from Florida; Dr. Bob Shipp from Alabama; and Dr. Greg Stunz from Texas. The Council also re-elected Dr. Tom Frazer as Chairman and Dale Diaz as Vice Chairman for a third year.
The following is a brief overview of what was accomplished during the meeting.
Coastal Migratory Pelagics and Red Drum Advisory Panels
The Council populated its Coastal Migratory Pelagics and Red Drum Advisory Panels. These Advisory Panels are comprised of people who are knowledgeable about a particular fishery and advise the Council on issues related to their expertise. The following people have been selected to serve for a three-year term:
Coastal Migratory Pelagic:
Bergmann II, Charles
Gryder, V. William (Neil)
Readenour II, Kelty
Stein III, William
Prewitt III, Thomas
Stein III, William
Moritz III, Burt
Nacio, Lance Pappas, Harris
Prewitt III, Thomas
Stein III, William
Valenciano, Rodolfo (Rudy)
The Council was presented with results of an update stock assessment for Cobia in the Gulf of Mexico. 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 initiated work on an amendment that will consider modifying cobia catch limits and management measures including bag limits, vessel limits, and size limits. The Council also heard a summary of responses gathered using the Something’s Fishy with Cobia tool. A majority of responses came from the central part of the northern Gulf and most fishermen shared a negative perception of the stock.
The Mackerel Committee is scheduled to review an update stock assessment for Gulf king mackerel during the next Council meeting in October. The Council requested to see an analysis of king mackerel sector landings and quotas for recent years with recreational landings converted using the MRIP Fishing Effort Survey calibration at a future Council meeting.
Executive Order: Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth
The Council heard a presentation on the portion of the Executive Order that focuses on the determination of aquaculture opportunity areas. Next, the Council was presented with stakeholder suggestions on regulations that could be removed or Council documents, or procedures, that could be modified to reduce burdens on domestic fishing. The Committee modified the list of potential regulations to recommend for removal that were identified during the June 2020 meeting and plans to continue refining its recommendations at the next meeting.
Impacts of COVID-19
The Council reviewed an analysis of impacts of COVID-19 on individual fishing quota (IFQ) program fisheries for red snapper, red grouper, and gag grouper. Overall, 2020 landings trends are similar to landings in recent years with a few differences in ex-vessel prices. For the remainder of the year, the Council will review IFQ data at each Council meeting to assess the need for possible emergency action due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
RESTURANTS Act of 2020
The Council will send a letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology highlighting the adverse social and economic impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Gulf of Mexico commercial fishing and seafood industries. The letter is sent in response to a request for comment on the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020, which aims to provide relief to the food and drink service industry through the end of 2020.
Depredation by Marine Mammals
The Council heard a presentation on the Marine Mammal Protection Act and challenges related to interactions between marine mammals and fishing activities. A proposed rule outlining guidelines, specific measures, and prohibitions on marine mammal deterrents was published on August 31, 2020 and is accepting public comments. National Marine Fisheries Service is interested in hearing from the Council and the fishing community to figure out the best way to reduce harmful interactions with marine mammals.
Private Recreational State Management
Each state provided the Council with an update of its 2020 private recreational red snapper season. Florida’s season was open from June 11 – July 25 and will re-open October 17, 18, 24, 25, 31, and November 1. Alabama’s season was open on weekends (Friday – Monday) from May 22 – June 3, and will re-open October 10-12. Mississippi’s season was open from May 22 – July 5, and again on September 5th. Louisiana’s season was open weekends (Friday-Sunday) from May 22 – August 13 including Memorial Day, and again September 4-7. Texas opened their federal waters season from June 1 – August 2. Texas’ state waters opened at the beginning of the year and currently remains open.
It was noted that both Texas and Louisiana exceeded their 2019 private angling annual catch limits. As a result, each state’s 2020 private angling catch limit was reduced by the amount of its overage.
Calibration State Data Collection Programs
Staff from NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology presented the Council with a review of a series of workshops held to work on the calibration of MRIP and state data collection programs for recreational red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Calibrations between these programs are needed to ensure that quota monitoring, stock assessments, and catch limits can all be performed in the same data currency. The Council instructed staff to develop a document that provides private recreational red snapper data calibration options for Council consideration. This document will consider options for using calibration ratios as presented by NOAA and a uniform buffer applied to each state’s current allocation percentage. The Council intends to time decisions that involve converted state survey data for the private recreational red snapper fishery with the results from the Great Red Snapper count.
Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Fishing Effort Survey (FES) Calibration
The federal program that estimates recreational harvest, MRIP, changed the way it collects information on fishing effort in 2017. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee has since reviewed the new recreational catch and effort estimation procedures and calibrations of historical catch estimates to MRIP-FES. Overall landings trends are maintained; however, the magnitude of estimates have increased considerably for historical landings for many species. The MRIP-FES also increased estimates of the proportion of shore-based effort, and the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee raised a concern that using only data from public access locations may not be representative of all shore effort. The Council decided to draft a letter to the NOAA Office of Science and Technology, recommending an examination of whether shore-based private access locations are properly considered in MRIP. The Council will also ask for the development of protocols to detect and review extreme or unusual values in catch and effort estimates.
Recreational Sector Allocations between Private and For-Hire Fishermen
The Council directed staff to develop a white paper that considers separate sector allocations between the private and for-hire components of the recreational sector for the following four reef fish species: red grouper, gag grouper, greater amberjack, and gray triggerfish. Staff will present this white paper to the Council at a future meeting.
The Council heard an overview of analytical requirements and reporting mechanisms for the shrimp fleet. Bycatch information is acquired through observer programs; landings and economic data are collected through monthly dealer reported state trip tickets and paper surveys; and effort data is collected from time-stamped GPS coordinates collected through electronic logbooks. The 3G technology used to transmit electronic logbooks will be phasing out by the end of 2020, and the Council was presented with potential options to continue reporting effort data once 3G service discontinues. The Council decided to convene its Shrimp Advisory Panel to consider a proof of concept with industry use of P-Sea Windplot software to replace the 3G logbooks.
Currently, federal management of red drum begins nine miles from shore off the coasts of Texas and Florida, and three miles off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The Council directed staff to develop a document that considers allowing the States of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to manage red drum out to 9 nautical miles.