For Immediate Release
February 6, 2019
State Management of Recreational Red Snapper
The Council heard a summary of comments received during public hearings and reviewed draft amendments for establishing state management programs for recreational red snapper. The Council added a new alternative, and made it the preferred, which would allocate the private angling annual catch limit among the states as follows:
This alternative uses the quotas initially requested by each state in the exempted fishing permit applications, and distributes the remaining 3.78% between Florida and Alabama. The Council also selected a preferred alternative that would allow states to create area or depth-specific regulations by requesting that NOAA Fisheries close areas of the federal waters adjacent to the states. Finally, the Council clarified its intent to apply any necessary quota underage or overage adjustments in 2020 based on each state’s 2019 landings under the exempted fishing permits. The Council will take Final Action on this amendment at its April meeting.
Historical Captain Endorsements
The Council reviewed recommendations from its Charter For-Hire and Headboat Advisory Panels, and heard a summary of public comments received on an abbreviated framework action that considers replacing historical captain permits with standard federal for-hire permits. The Council modified the document to make the replacement of historical captain permits with standard for-hire permits optional. The Council plans to take final action on this document at its April 2019 meeting.
Carryover of Unharvested Quota
The Council reviewed a public hearing draft of an amendment that considers carrying over uncaught quota from one year to the next when harvest has not reached the sector or stock annual catch limit. The Council selected preferred alternatives that would allow carryover for stocks with sector allocations unless those stocks are overfished or were not subject to a quota closure. For each species, there is a buffer between the overfishing limit (OFL) and acceptable biological catch (ABC) to account for scientific uncertainty. The Council selected a preferred alternative that would limit the amount of carryover for any given year so that it doesn’t exceed 50% of the value of the buffer between OFL and ABC. Finally, the Council selected preferred alternatives that would modify the framework procedures to allow for carryover of unharvested quota. The Council will host a webinar public hearing video and solicit comments on this document before its April meeting.
The Council reviewed a draft of Shrimp Amendment 18, which considers increasing the amount of shrimp effort allowed in the special area that is monitored for juvenile red snapper bycatch. Analysis shows that the effort reduction threshold, which currently requires that shrimp effort in the area monitored for juvenile red snapper be 67% below the effort in the baseline years of 2001-2003, can be reduced to 60% without affecting the rebuilding of the red snapper stock. The Council selected preferred options that would reduce the allowable shrimp effort to 60% below the baseline years and revise the framework procedure to allow future effort reduction goals. The Council will host a webinar and solicit public input on this document before taking final action at the April meeting.
The Council worked on an amendment that considers the criteria used to determine the overfishing and overfished status of gray snapper, and the annual catch limits for the stock. A recent gray snapper stock assessment determined that, gray snapper is experiencing overfishing and may be overfished. The Council added alternatives to consider a definition of maximum sustainable yield that would allow for more harvest at a given stock size than the alternatives currently in the document. The Council also added corresponding alternatives to modify the annual catch limit. The Council selected a preferred alternative what would set the minimum stock size threshold using the largest buffer of the alternatives considered, and would reduce the likelihood that the stock is declared overfished. The Council also selected a preferred alternative that would define the optimum yield using the smallest buffer of the alternatives considered. The Science Center will revise the projections, the SSC will review the new proxies and projections and provide recommendations to the Council. The Council will review the revised public hearing draft and host a webinar public hearing to solicit comments on this document before taking final action this summer.
In October 2018, the Council reviewed an interim analysis that could be used to provide updated harvest recommendations for red grouper until the current stock assessment is completed. Recent landings have been well below the annual catch limits, which may indicate that the stock is not large enough to sustain current harvest levels. The National Marine Fisheries Service is working to publish an emergency rule that will establish an annual catch limit for 2019 equal to the 2017 landings. This rule will be in effect for a period of 180 days. The Council reviewed a framework action that considers reducing red grouper catch limits to bridge the gap after the emergency rule expires and before another amendment can be developed when the next stock assessment is completed. The Council selected a preferred alternative that would set catch limits (in millions of pounds gutted weight) based on 2017 landings as follows:
The Council will solicit public comment on this document before taking final action at its next meeting in April.
Modifications to the Individual Fishing Quota Programs
The Council reviewed draft actions for Amendment 36B, which considers modifying the commercial individual fishing quota programs. The proposed actions include requiring shareholders to have a federal permit, distributing shares that have been reclaimed by NMFS, establishing a quota bank, and requiring weight estimates provided in landing notifications to be accurate. The Council specified that, in part, the purpose of the document will be to increase access to individual fishing quota shares for eligible, active commercial fishermen. The Council will review an updated draft of this document at a future meeting.
Reallocation of Red Snapper
In October 2018, the Council reviewed the 18 objectives that have been included in the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan and agreed upon 11 objectives that will be used moving forward. At this meeting, the Council modified the language in one objective “To achieve robust fishery reporting and data collection systems across all sectors for monitoring the reef fish fishery which minimizes management uncertainty” and added a 12th objective “To promote and maintain accountability in the reef fish fishery.”
The Council was presented with draft options for an amendment that considers reallocating the red snapper annual catch limit. The Council removed an action that considered reallocating quota between the private angling and federal for-hire components of the recreational sector. The Council also expanded the range of options to be considered for reallocating between commercial and recreational sectors. The Council will review and discuss an updated draft of this document at its April meeting.
Charter and Headboat Management
Reef Fish Amendment 41 and 42 consider allocation-based management for federally permitted charter vessels and headboat vessels, respectively. After hearing comments from its Ad Hoc Reef Fish Headboat and Ad Hoc Red Snapper Charter For-Hire Advisory Panels the Council decided to postpone action on Amendments 41 and 42 until electronic logbook data is available for federally permitted charter vessels and has been deemed suitable for management purposes. The Council also decided to disband both the Ad Hoc Reef Fish Headboat and Ad Hoc Red Snapper Charter For-Hire Advisory Panels.
Advisory Panel and Technical Committee Applicants
Advisory panel members are appointed for 3-year terms. This year, the Council will re-populate the Coral and Data Collection Advisory Panels and maintain the current membership of the Spiny Lobster Advisory Panel for an additional 3-year term. The Council will solicit applicants for the Coral and Data Collection Advisory Panels in the coming weeks.