NOAA Fisheries announces a final rule that will prohibit fishing in the Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Marine Protected Areas throughout the year, and prohibit the possession of Gulf of Mexico reef fish, with no exception for vessels in transit unless the vessel has an operating vessel monitoring system, a valid federal commercial Gulf of Mexico reef fish permit, and fishing gear appropriately stowed.
These prohibitions do not apply to Atlantic Highly Migratory Species.
When Rule Will Take Effect:
Regulations will be effective August 20, 2021.
What This Means:
The rule would prohibit all fishing, except for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, year-round in the Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Marine Protected Areas.
The rule would prohibit the possession of Gulf of Mexico reef fish in these areas unless a vessel has a valid Federal commercial permit for Gulf of Mexico reef fish, which requires an operating satellite-based vessel monitoring system, and is in transit with fishing gear that are appropriately stowed.
FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 86 FR 38418, published July 21, 2021.
This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.
Where can I find more information on the rule?
Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
By Mail: Rich Malinowski
NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
Sustainable Fisheries Division
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505
By FAX: (727) 824-5308
By Phone: (727) 824-5305
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Does the Rule Do?
The rule prohibits the possession of any species of Gulf of Mexico reef fish in the Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps Marine Protected Areas, with no exception for vessels in transit unless the vessel has an operating vessel monitoring system and a valid federal commercial Gulf of Mexico reef fish permit.
This rule eliminates the surface trolling provision and effectively closes the protected areas to harvest throughout the year.
This rule is expected to result in direct positive effects for mature spawning gag that are known to inhabit the protected areas, as well as other resident reef fish species.
These prohibitions do not apply to Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, such as tunas and billfish.
Who can possess Gulf of Mexico reef fish species in the marine protected areas?
Possession of Gulf of Mexico reef fish would be allowed only on a federally permitted commercial vessel with an operating vessel monitoring system. Fishing gear also must be appropriately stowed onboard.
Appropriately stowed means:
Longlines may be left on the drum if all gangions or hooks are disconnected and stowed below deck, hooks are not baited, and all buoys are disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck.
A trawl net may remain on deck, but trawl doors must be disconnected from the trawl gear and must be secured.
A rod and reel must be removed from the rod holder, stowed securely on or below deck with the terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) disconnected and stowed separately from the rod and reel, and sinkers must be disconnected from the down rigger and stowed separately.