council logo bannerFor Immediate Release
July 2, 2024


The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met in Houston, Texas from June 24 – 27, 2024. During the meeting, the Council honored outgoing Council members Susan Boggs, Dale Diaz, and Bob Gill.  The following is a brief description of items that were addressed:


Advisory Panel and Scientific and Statistical Committee Membership

Advisory Panels (APs) are comprised of people who are knowledgeable about a particular fishery and advise the Council on issues related to their expertise.  The Council populated its Ad Hoc Commercial Red Snapper/Grouper-Tilefish IFQ, Reef Fish, and Shrimp Advisory Panels.  Members appointed to the Ad Hoc AP will serve until the AP concludes work, is disbanded, or is reappointed.  Members appointed to the standing APs will serve a three-year term.  The list of people who have been selected to serve can be found here.


Scientific and Statistical Committees (SSCs) are comprised of professionals with education and expertise in a variety of fields such as biology, ecology, quantitative analysis/modeling, economics, and social sciences.  SSCs provide the Council with ongoing scientific advice for fishery management, including recommendations for preventing overfishing and achieving rebuilding targets, and any new methodologies that need scientific review.  The Council populated its standing SSC and Special Mackerel SSC.  The list of people who have been selected to serve a three-year term can be found here.  The Council plans to readvertise for its Special Shrimp SSC before the August Council Meeting and will repopulate it’s Coral, Red Drum, and Spiny Lobster Special SSCs at a later date.


Commercial Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program Modifications

The Council worked on Reef Fish Amendment 59, which considers active participation and permit requirements for obtaining a shareholder account and holding and obtaining shares and allocation.  This amendment aims to improve opportunities for new participants by modifying requirements for participation.  The Council also decided to consider the possibility of establishing a permit pool for commercial reef fish permits that would otherwise expire each year.


The Council also worked on Reef Fish Amendment 60, which considers alternative approaches to distributing IFQ shares and allocation, recovered from inactive shareholders accounts or from the divestment by shareholders who do not meet requirements that would be set in Reef Fish Amendment 59, and annual allocation collected from future quota increases.  The Council heard a presentation on methods to distribute shares and allocation including, distribution based on shareholder’s share percentages, inverse share percentages, and equal distribution. The Council plans to continue work on both documents during its August 2024 meeting.


For-Hire Reporting

The Council continued work on a draft amendment that considers developing a new for-hire data collection program.  The Council reviewed potential actions and alternatives for standing up a new program and considered options to validate fishing effort data that would be collected through a new program.  The Council also worked on defining the purpose and need of the document and directed its staff to bring back alternatives that expand options for validating effort without using 24 hour/7-day vessel monitoring systems.  The Council also discussed minimum requirements for collecting economic data that are necessary for management.  The Council plans to continue work on this program during its August 2024 meeting.


Shallow-Water Grouper 20-Fathom Recreational Seasonal Closure

Currently, the recreational harvest of shallow-water grouper species (scamp, yellowmouth grouper, black grouper, and yellowfin grouper) and red grouper is closed seaward of 20-fathoms in February and March, each year.  Gag grouper is also closed to recreational harvest during that time period each year. The Council was briefed on concerns from its Reef Fish Advisory Panel and from the public that the closure is both unenforceable and ineffective in achieving its intended conservation goals.  After a presentation, the Council initiated work on a document to remove the 20-fathom recreational seasonal closure for shallow-water grouper.


Lane Snapper

The Council recently received notice that lane snapper is subject to overfishing.  This determination comes despite recent Council actions to increase lane snapper catch limits in 2021 and again in January of 2024.  The Council is obligated to make management changes that are designed to end overfishing.  During this meeting the Council reviewed recommendations from its Reef Fish Advisory Panel and initiated work on a document that will consider adjusting minimum size limits, bag limits, and other management measures to constrain harvest to the annual catch limit.  The Council also requested that NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center conduct an interim analysis for lane snapper to get an updated understanding of the health of the stock.


Charter For-Hire Red Snapper Fishing Season and Buffer

The Council reviewed recommendations from its Reef Fish Advisory Panel and heard a presentation on adjusting the federal for-hire fishing season and the buffer between the federal for-hire component red snapper annual catch limit and annual catch target.  The Council expects to review analyses evaluating how season duration would be impacted by opening the season earlier and how modified season dates would impact management uncertainty.  The Council will discuss these actions further at a future Council meeting.


Recreational Initiative

The Council heard a status report on work being done on its Recreational Initiative.  The Recreational Initiative is an effort to engage the Gulf of Mexico recreational fishing community to review and evaluate past and current reef fish management strategies and explore potential new approaches.  In doing so, the Council seeks to identify ways to increase angler satisfaction while achieving long-term stock health for managed species.  Work on the Recreational Initiative will primarily be performed by the Recreational Initiative Working Group which will be comprised of members of the public with experience and vested interest in recreational reef fish fisheries.  The Council is soliciting members for the Working Group during the month of July and expects to appoint members during its August 2024 meeting.  Click here to apply for the Recreational Initiative Working Group.


Spanish Mackerel

The most recent stock assessment for the Gulf migratory group of Spanish mackerel (SEDAR 81 2023) incorporated new recreational landings data using the Marine Recreational Information Program’s Fishing Effort Survey (MRIP-FES).  The stock assessment found Spanish mackerel to be healthy, not overfished or experiencing overfishing.  However, landings and catch-per-unit-effort have both decreased in recent years and commercial and recreational harvest have consistently been much lower than the annual catch limit.  As a result, new catch advice represents a 35% decrease in allowable harvest.  After discussing the document, including the new action to reduce the bag limit, the Council decided to delay further work on until it completes the Special Engagement Efforts on the Coastal Migratory Pelagics.  These Engagement Efforts are a directed effort to gather input from stakeholders across the Gulf on cobia, Spanish mackerel, and king mackerel.  The Council also requested that NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center conduct a desk management strategy evaluation on Spanish mackerel to test the effects of uncertain recreational landings data and potentially reducing the recreational bag limits on the management performance.


King Mackerel

The Council began work on a document that considers reducing catch limits and recreational bag limits.  Landings has been well below the annual catch limits in recent years and the Council has received public testimony expressing concern about a decline in the stock.  The Council decided not to consider catch limit modifications or changes to the recreational bag limit at this time.  Instead, the Council requested more information on potential post-season accountability measures that would allow for the dynamic nature of the fishery to be reflected in future management measures.  The Council also requested more information on catch-per-unit effort by gear and fishing zone to take into account the decline in the number of commercial king mackerel permits.  This information will be presented during the August meeting.



The Council heard a presentation from Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary staff reflecting concerns about unregulated fishing for wahoo within the Sanctuary’s boundaries. NOAA Fisheries then presented the Council with several different potential pathways for wahoo management.  The Council decided to evaluate whether wahoo is in need of federal conservation and management in the Gulf of Mexico.